I’ve just left a comment over at the Mostly Books blog which made me stop and think about my reading habits.
I was responding to the lastest post about a visit to the shop by author Julie Hearn. I said:
She sounded so fab that I went straight to her website. Then, because she still sounded lovely and her books sounded very much like the sort of thing I love, I to went to my local bookshop and bought the only one they had 'The Merrybegot'. It's already been promoted to the top of the 'to be read' pile!
Which it has.
But would I have bought Ms Hearn’s book if I’d thought it sounded great but she, personally, did not come across as the sort of person I would like to find myself stuck on a desert island with? [Or as a friend of mine from the former Yugoslavia says, darkly ‘in a bunker with’…] Do I, in other words, only read/buy books by people I like?
After racking my brains and casting an eye over the bookshelf pile which contains all the most recently read books in the house, I think the answer has to be ‘yes’. If I hear or read an author interview and the subject comes across as pretentious or misogynistic or objectionable, I probably wouldn't buy their books. Not because I wouldn't want to contribute to their bank balance (although...) but because reading something written by somebody whose basic attitude to people was so different to my own would probably lead to me feeling out of sorts and at cross purposes with what I'm reading. And life's too short, and I read too slowly, to spend time on novels which make you feel like that.
But what if the book was in a genre I really liked and that particular book seemed fantastically interesting?
Hmmm. Would I give up reading Minette Walters’ books if I found out that she was anything other than lovely? Or Philippa Gregory’s? Or Tracy Chevalier’s, Joanne Harris’, Sue Gee’s…
I suppose the cop-out answer is that these authors could not write such humane and engrossing books if they were unpleasant, narrow-minded or mean-spirited.
So, do I like books because I intuit, somehow, that their writers are nice people? Or because they give me an insight into other lives, other worlds and take me on a journey of discovery?
Perhaps it's just that the way my favourite writers look at the lives of their subjects and the world in which they live chimes with something in me.
Do other people read and enjoy books by authors whom they know they would dislike intensely if they actually met them? Or am I alone in my strange reading prejudices?