Wednesday, August 23, 2006


The ever estimable Bookslut posted this link from the tear-'em apart commentator/racanteur Cristopher Hitchens opining on Gunter Grass's confession that he was in the SS during WW II. When I first heard last week about Mr. Grass, a wave of disappointment hit me. I love his "The Tin Drum" . A "Say it ain't so" (Gunther!) came rising up the throat.

There have been other times when this sort of thing happened. Doris Kearn Goodwin's reluctant admission of farmed out research resulted in my collecting the 3 books of hers that I had and dumping them in that week's trash. I didn't even bother going the donation route on her stuff.
Forrest Carter, aka Asa Earl Carter, wrote a wonderfully touching book, "The Education of Little Tree". When I heard of Mr. Carter's past, I felt like a fool. A chump. As a reader I was fish chum waiting to be devoured by this shark of an author. I had a very hard time seperating the work from the author.

I'm still holding on to The Education of Little Tree and Grass's books, more as a warning to myself of the danger of the bonds a reader forms with an author than as books I may be re-reading.

I need to take a cleansing shower.

How about you folks? Any disappointment with an artist becasue of the disconnect between their works and their (hidden) lives? Can you seperate the creator from the creation?

Surely this is why novels are - appropriately - called "fiction."
I like the Tin Drum too, I'll read again despite Grass' past.
German media have been trying painstakingly to uncover the whole extent of Grass' involvement with the SS and since he claims to have forgotten (!) many things about it, it will probably remain impossible to get to know the nature/existence of his past deeds/crimes. Which makes it easy to continue loving his literary work - unfortunately, I'm not prepared to forget all about the overwhelming experience of just having read The Tin Drum. Yes, I do think this is vain and yes, it would be a different thing if Grass really had committed bad crimes. But I wouldn't know where one should draw the line.
Grass is also one of those people who feel they have to publicly deliver moral judgements on a regular basis; many of those have been considered tasteless, thoughtless, claptrap by the public. So, many people can now enjoy some freshly fuelled indignation at his self-created public role ("upholder of moral standards"). Generally, it seems more and more wise to mistrust everyone making strong, possibly black-and-white or pathetic statements about important issues in the public - they may have a skeleton in the closet. On the other hand, not everyone is just too good to be true. Go figure.
Absolutely - gut fell at the news. There was "TinDrum" and another novel featuring Oskar Matzerath that was just as good to my mind.

Won't stop me reading them again. But their author can go hang.
Thanks for the view from the homeland on Mr. Grass. By the way, I've left a couple of comments on your latest entry a few days ago. Do you have your comments locked out? Maybe there is an approval process that they need to go through. I swear my commetns are safe for public consumption.

Being thick here. Yes, novels are "fiction" but there is a strong connection between the writer and the written. It seems that you can easily seperate one from the other. Myself, the author and the novel are not like a child and their parent, where there is capacity to change/be different between the two. At times I rather not know too much about the author so I can read a book without the shadow of personality. But like any good gossip, I get suckered in.

F.C.B., I envy you the ability of your mental juggling.
Here's two links from Terry Teachout regarding the Gross Situation.
He starts out with this passage,
"If I may, I’ll reframe my reader’s question as follows: is there any act so absolutely heinous that the works of a great artist who commits it should be permanently banned from circulation? Asked in that way, the question admits of a wide and interesting range of possible answers, but what I find even more interesting is the fact that it’s impossible to come up with a real-life case that fills the bill." He does an admirable job in coming to terms with the beauty of art and the (occassional) hideousness of the artist.
From WSJ.
From Arts Journal.

Myself? Sometimes, I wish I had these babies on when reading.
As some who writes nonsense every day, both on his blog and for work, not only can I distinguish between the author and his work, but I don't see why someone with a "past" should not be able to make moral judgements. It seems to me that they be in a better position to know what they are talking about than an averagely "innocent" person.
True, that.
But, my question would be, "Do I need to know the author?".
An innocent's life, unlike a villain's, may not be interesting enough to write about, or, more importantly, not interesting enough to read about. Why possibly ruin a perfectly good read with true facts of the author?
Darko, all I did was to turn on comment moderation and now I can't read or find the comments at all, even though I turned that clever thing off again - I am sorry (help).
BTW: what's this thing on the picture? Bread with worms?
I feel compelled to comment, even though (*cough, cough*) I haven't actually read Herr Grass. I'm thinking I experienced some kind of moral disappointment in a few potential heroes, back in my early 20s, but for the life of me I can't recall who they were. I do remember experiencing acute disappointment in Bob Dylan, after several fairly worshipful biographies revealed him to be a frequently snivelling, manipulative prick.

Having grown up behind the wizard's curtain in the sacred halls of The Church, I've had the early benefit of realizing all too well that the loudest preachers are the ones most prone to the greatest lapses in judgement. The truth is living a reasonably virtuous life requires unspectacular "little" work, marked by a modest level of self-discipline - even - or perhaps particularly - in the face of monstrous evil. You simply don't find those traits in spotlight seekers. These jokers shouldn't be taken seriously, but are. I guess I don't take them seriously - including Hitchens, whose support for Bush and post-humous belittling of Said, an old friend, I still find baffling. Ah well - a possible lapse of my own, I'm sure.
That pictured item looks like prepackaged fish and meat chum that comes in clear-plastic wrapping. You can see the one end is nipped off and tied.
Or, maybe it is bread with worms as you suggest, just another fisherman's delicacy.
As WP noted, Dylan lost a lot of my adoration when I realized he was such a putz.

I suppose you could find much controversy in the lives of many famous artists, writers, actors, poets, etc.

Does a shady or cruel personal life of the creator make less of the creation?

In some ways, yes.
The Tin Drum is great novel, and whatever Grass did, the novel remains great. Long time ago I read Peter Handke novels and was delighted, although I must say, sitting in Sarajevo between 1992-1995 I was not delighted with the fact he was friends with Milošević. And btw, who knows what was Shakespeare, beside beaing a great writer!
(For your information - there is no Balkan-Scissors, there is Jugoslavija instead!)
Say, I like your template-tweaking. It reads a little easier, I think.
Thanks for the readability comment. My son was doing some major kwetching about the "hues of blue" that he struggled through to get to the words.

...Or at least that's the reason he's been giving me as to why he's not been religiously studying the old man's scribblings.

Now, he has one excuse less.
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