Monday 2 May 2011

The Author's work OR his/her life

 Now this is an old debate. I am only rekindling this topic as I find that it constantly niggles me.

Many times we tend to read an author for the wonderful world she/he creates and along with their usage of words, ideas, expressions also colour our perceptions. But what happens when we read something in the tabloids about the personal life of that particular author? Do we like the work less or could we read the remaining works of that author without allowing the tabloids to influence our judgment?

These thoughts started stirring my mind when the issue of golfer Tiger Woods and author/publisher David Davidar started filling the pages of the newspapers. I enjoyed the game of Woods and reading a novel by Davidar. I still like them for their works. But when news of their various dalliances hit the stands, I was a bit perturbed. I wonder why? I never knew them personally nor did  bother to know about their lives before reading their books but why do I feel a bit unsettled when the papers reported on them? Probably reading their works, I have tuned myself to think that they are as wonderful as the yarn they spin.

Presently I am reading a book called Bookless in Baghdad by Shashi Tharoor, the charming politician and prolific author and journalist. The book in concern is a collection of Tharoor's essays about reading, writing, writers and other interesting aspects of life and literature. Reading the book, I am growing to like the man and his candid style of writing but at the back of my mind I can't stop thinking of his recent marriage (his third) to a Dubai socialite. I brush the thought aside and justify that the personal is something that I should not be concerned with when I am absorbed in his writing. But it seems a tad difficult to separate.

This brings me to the all too cliched saying, "No one is perfect" but as public figures, do people expect their lives to be exemplary? Does the whole package matter: the works as well as the personal life? Can people not see Tiger Woods just for his golf and not for his personal life? Why do we become so involved? Why is the morality within us always itch when we read of the dalliances of authors and sports persons we admire and cherish?

Well, I suppose I will still read Davidar's works and watch Woods' game but I also cannot forget that they 'did' something that was not taken kindly by most of the people.

Now I want to know what you think of this topic? Personal Life? Work? Talent?


  1. Hello dear Susan, I ama back online again and what a delight to come to your place first.;))
    Thank you for all your lovely messages.;)
    As for the personal life of celebrities or people in the public eye,it is inevitable that they will be very scrutinized. Often they are role models and close to heroes and we expect them to behave accordingly, forgetting that they are flawed humans, just like us.
    Hope all is well at your end, good to be back my friend.;))

  2. Zuzanaaaaaaaaa:

    How lovely to have you back. Glad Glad and Glad. Hope you have been well and refreshed. At last, I can read your thoughtful posts again. I like the new picture adorning your profile. Newness is exciting, as always :)

    I wish you a wonderful month of May :)

  3. I think it is a human tendency to associate one good quality with another and one vice with several others. A noble politician mustn't be a smoker while a rapist can also be a murderer. It becomes difficult to accept that those who are exceptionally talented especially in the public sphere and whom we admire for that talent are also human beings with some character flaws. It is tough to accept that our hero has any failings.

  4. Human tendency certainly, and many will disdain an author's great works should he/she fall from grace in the eyes of the masses. Tabloid press can often destroy a reputation for an indiscretion, but does it really lessen the quality of their works?

  5. when our faith is in people we will surely be disappointed. we put people on pedestals and expect them not to fall...and i have yet to find the perfect person

  6. Time and again we tend to be like someone famous...I was like this during my college days...Almost every man wastes part of his life in attempts to display qualities which he does not possess, and to gain applause which he cannot keep. ~Samuel Johnson, The Rambler, 1750

  7. Interesting topic to ponder. :)

    I like Vinay's comment. :)

  8. Personally I think to be in the public eye all the time must be very stressful. Certainly not a job that I want.

  9. what a thought provoking post!
    great comments

    I think in the case of Tiger Woods, one doesn't have anything to do with the other but if he were the president then it would. Different role, different expectations.

    I agree with Brian. I think most of us are sheep looking for the great leader to guide our way, to learn from, to follow as in a good example and too often and basically it's not a bad thing, we look to a person with considerable amount of, talent, skill, compassion etc. and we place him/her on a pedestal. but we/they are not perfect nor will be.

    great examples Vinay!

    take care!

  10. Depends on if one wants to make it an issue of ethics or not. We have many leaders with various indiscretions who have done wonderful jobs within the parameters of their careers. However, from an ethical/moral standpoint, have they lived with character? Hmmm. . .you're such the philosopher Susan! And should we really look to them as role models? A whole other debate. . .xoxoxo

  11. I think it affects us!

    I would say it affects me. I don't know why or can't place a logic to it. But maybe I would prefer reading the thoughts of somebody who has done well for himself/herself.

    But, that would be for non-fiction books. Novels- it is story dependent.

  12. Oh, almost all the literary greats have led controversial lives... a biographical reading into the who's who of literature will show their moral values, which is sometimes disheartening when you think that you've grown to love the author's work. Great talent comes at a price I guess... temperament.

  13. You ask some really good questions! This question could transcend to artists of all kinds-writers, musicians, painers, etc. I think it's important to separate a person's gift from their inherent shortcomings, for we all have them, though I think it's natural to become disenchanted sometimes when we find out certain things about people whose talents and characters we've admired. I know I love Yanni and I remember hearing a headline once that he hit one of his girlfiends in the face. I was stunned! Not my Yanni! I love his music, it paints images in my mind and emotions in my heart..and then I realized you know if people judged me for the things I do, whatever I might have to contribute would totally go unnoticed because I'm failing at personal levels all the time!

    Anyways, great post...I think this is a common thing that happens and something to reflect on.

  14. This is a fascinating topic and I understand where you are coming from. I too like various authors, musicians, artists but then find something out about their personal lives that for some strange reason makes me like their work just that much less...which really isn't fair in a sense. Their music, art, or writing should be judged on its own merit. These people aren't there to provide us with good moral examples although it would be nice if they did.

    On the other hand, there are famous people who we do look to to provide these moral examples, religious leaders for example and I think when they fail us, there is a deeper sense of...hurt maybe? Betrayal? Even though as Brian says, if we place our faith in people we are bound to be disappointed. Yet who can help it?:)

  15. An interesting subject. I think that en we relate to a celebrity because we enjoy what they do, we subconciously relate on other levels. We imbibe then with qualities we hope we possess and find admirable- after all if we admire them - they must possess admirable traits.

    Personally I find it amusing - the general outcry when a celeb misbehaves - a part of me wants to jump about and yell 'YEAH'

  16. I think the tabloids have just exploited the old human habit of judgement. If we can judge someone, on some level it makes us feel better, above them somehow. Still, I know it's hard to disregard the images and expectations we have set for celebrities. We are all just people, with so many imperfections.

    As always, you came up with an interesting topic. You are such a good thinker Susan.

  17. two of my favorite authors leave a lot to be desired as people, but their work is impeccable. I ask myself, however, where I would draw the line? I dont think I would like the work of a rapist regardless of the talent.
    Good me wondering

  18. I am so glad you are writing again.
    I am sorry loss was the reason why you left. Loss is such a lonely feeling.
    Intensely loving and the risk of getting hurt are so inextricably together, it takes bravery to love.
    Zuzana,is there anything that can take the pain away? if there is, let me know because other than time I never found a short cut to it.

  19. Karishma:

    I know. You have nailed the issue right. I think the work shoudl speak for itself, irrespective of the person. Well, . . .


    That is what I am wondering about, as well, Jim.

  20. Brian:

    I guess those days the tabloids weren't as bad as they are. perhaps that is why Shakespeare and the like are not much affected.


    You haven't still stated your choice :) But I do like the two examples.

  21. Alpana:



    Even I did like his comment. Quite apt.

  22. Nelieta:

    True. The tabloids make it worse. I guess we are lucky to be where we are.


    Long time, dear one. Welcome. President of golfer, morality issues are at stake, Hope.

    And Vinay was good, yes.

    You take care as well, dear Hope.

  23. Pam:

    Not exactly role models but still . . .

    I keep wondering, Pam.


    Same here. It does matter on a teeny-weeny level. Well, I hvaen't thought of the genre but I guess everything is the same.

  24. Karen:

    These days the tabloids make it worse. Price, yes!


    Yanni! Even I like him. i liked the way you've said "Not my Yanni." How personal artists become to us inspite of not knowing them!

    Thanks for coming by Jessica :)

  25. Colleen:

    Religious leaders ARE role models, I think. They should not go wrong. I wonder why we take that betrayal so personally inspite of not knowing them personally. This issue baffles me.


    We definitely relate subconsciously on other levels. It is quite amusing and baffling.

    Welcome Jo and thanks for coming by and sharing your insight.

  26. Myrna:

    Myrna, I don't know what to say on this. I guess I should leave the personal bit out.


    Even I have been wondering since a very long time :)

  27. Them people are celebrities where every fibre of their soul is counted by the number of their hair. They are exempted to the rule of "what you see is what you get." Being a public figure they are under harsh subjugation to both microscopic and macroscopic scrutiny that even the color of their fecal matter is known to the world! It's the piquant work of the media! The Artist! The eccentrics! The Everything. When I read a book, I admire the gift of the author. Nothing more, nothing less. As to his private life? Who cares? If they are not popular, no one knows and nobody will know. Will any one out there truly cares? The media are damn manipulators! If we can separate our admiration to them as human beings, then we don't have to worry about their inverted intestines being exposed by the media. It's their life. And they are not Gods. Therefore, they have no duty to become Super Models - though it would help color their Integrity. It's just tough luck that they are in the limelight!

  28. I am guilty of the same. I realize that humans aren't gods nor saints, yet I still expect a talented public figure to have a spotless private life. Perhaps this is the reason why I don't like reading the tabloids. They're too disappointing.

  29. Inday:

    I hear you but sometimes the news just creeps within me and I wonder.


    The tabloids tarnish the image but there is no smoke without fire. I guess these tabliods are recent phenomenons which critique too harshly.

  30. Susan, Interesting read. I wrote something along this here awhile back.

  31. I'm sorry Susan, but I think I go over the top. I can tell I am too strong in my view. Sometimes I can't hold my outspokenness. lol. That's the fire before the smoke. lol

  32. OtienoHongo:

    I should swing by your blog to see your post.


    No no, you are granted to state your thoughts. DOn't be sorry, dear Inday. You are a very genuine person, dear Inday. I am quite lucky to have come by you :)

  33. I liked the point you are trying to bring up in this discussion. Tharoor writes very well and his articulation is a clear strength. Do try and read a book titled India written by him. Its a fantastic inspiring read.



Related Posts with Thumbnails