Ack! My internet at home is out! We called last night, after various attempts at resetting our modem, to be told that there was a fiber problem in our area and the internet would be back up in 4-6 hours. Upon rising this morning at 5 a.m. the internet was still out. So we called again and this time they said the internet was working but the cable was not connecting with our modem. We can bring our modem in during their ridiculously limited hours, or a technician will be out to our house on Friday sometime between 8:30 and 9:30. Grr. Oh, and would you like to upgrade your access speed? It would be cheaper than what you are paying now. After much round and round and grilling the person, Bookman gets it out of her that the reduced rate is only for six months and then we will pay more than what we are paying now. No thanks! Just fix the internet I already pay for!
So I wrote my blog on my internet-less computer last night and brought it in to work this morning on a flash drive so I can post it. Sigh.
Here’s a question for you. Do you read books that are generally thought to be good but that are, in no relation to the story or plot, offensive to you in some way?
For example, not long ago I read a glowing review in the London Review of Books about three of Diego Marani’s books including New Finnish Grammar. They all sound really good, like books I would like, complex and interesting with intriguing language and style. I want to read them. But then the reviewer mentions that Marani doesn’t seem to like women very much, that he exhibits a “squeamishness at women’s bodies.” I was immediately turned off wanting to read his books. Of course then I start thinking that maybe I am wrong to dismiss what sound like otherwise good books just because the author has a woman problem. And then I think, hell no, I am not going to put up with yet another man’s inability to cope with half the human race.
And then I wonder, am I being too sensitive? Would I be bothered by a book that was racist? Anti-semitic? Homophobic? Yes, I would. There is no reason to subject myself to any of it.
Now, to clarify, I’m talking about current novels by authors who should know better. I am talking about novels in which the misogyny, etc, occurs not as part of a certain character, not as part of a broader theme or point the author is trying to make, but is just there because of the author’s own personal prejudices. It is one thing to read a novel written in the early 20th century or before when times and beliefs were different, there is a certain tolerance I can bring to my reading, a “they didn’t know better” sort of suspension of judgment. This does not mean I suspend my critical faculties, only that I take cultural context into consideration.
I find it not so easy to be forgiving with current novels. Yet, I still waffle and I feel like a dope for it. Why can’t I be firm and decisive on the matter? It bothers me that I can’t. At this point I am pretty sure I won’t read Marani’s books but I also know that if a woman friend I trust read New Finnish Grammar, raved about it and told me I should read it, I just might do it.
So I ask you, wonderful, thoughtful reader, how do you handle such books? Do you read them anyway and grind your teeth and try to ignore the offensive parts for the sake of an otherwise good book? Or do you flat-out refuse to read such a book? And how do you decide what and how much you will or won’t tolerate?