Author’s Life vs. Art – Question of the Day

I don’t have a fully fleshed-out post today, just a question for you all…

How much do you consider an author’s life while evaluating their fiction?

I have seen this go both ways.

For example, some will say it is fine to appreciate H. P. Lovecraft for his science fiction, while acknowledging his racist undercurrents. In a more recent instance, I was told by some readers to consider José Saramago’s life and background, while I was expressing criticism of his novel Blindness.

My gut instinct is that there is no wrong answer here and that the appropriate response runs on a subjective spectrum. It’s subjective because we each have our own personal boundaries of what we believe is acceptable or how far we’re willing to explore potentially offensive material (let alone to justify time spent on that exploration). It’s a spectrum because the reading and reviewing of a book is as nuanced as its writing, and I don’t think we should discredit our own personal reading experience for the sake of a merely “checklist” style of review.

Mostly, I’m interested in how other people make this judgment call, as I’m preparing to review Blindness. I don’t think it will change my review (haha), but I’ve been puzzling over this question since it came up at the book club, and I especially welcome the wisdom of my blog readers.

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