So here’s a question for you. How much leeway do you allow books, especially those from earlier times, when they are sexist, racist, classist, condescendingly colonial, etc? It’s been rattling around my brain a bit since I finished Foundation. Given Asimov wrote the stories in the 1940s, I can forgive him a little for his lack of inclusiveness when it comes to women. But only a little because part of me thinks he should have known better. And when I read H. Rider Haggard’s She, the whole thing was so absurd and the book so terrible on so many fronts that I could only laugh. But the misogyny and anti-immigrant sentiments in Dracula horrified me in a way that I could not find funny. I could laugh off Haggard, get away with being annoyed at Asimov, but Stoker made me angry. I could probably pinpoint why if I sat and thought about it for awhile but my brain is tired and doesn’t want to expend that much effort at the moment.
Instead, it just knows that there are some books I can forgive their moral transgressions and some I cannot. Do you find that to be the case too? And if so, do you know why you can forgive some but not others?
I’m not talking about the authors themselves. If I had to like the authors in order to enjoy the books then there would be a lot fewer books on my TBR pile. I try to keep an author’s personal leanings, whether they be grade-A jerk or heavenly angel, out of my opinions of their books. Of course if an author whose books I like turns out to be a really nice person that makes me happy, but it is not a requirement.
I like to think when it comes to books I can be generous and understanding, but truth be told, I sometimes can’t make the effort. I’d like to say there is a definite line and if the book crosses it then it’s all over between us. But it’s actually a line in the sand that keeps shifting. Where the line ends up depends on my mood, what kind of story it is (adventure, romance, mystery, drama), when it was written, whether the issues (sexism, racism, etc) appear to be deliberate or unconscious (don’t ask me how to tell, I don’t know, but I still make the judgment), how much a part of the story it is (a page, a scene, a chapter, the whole book), and probably a few other things that aren’t coming to me at the moment. It’s probably not entirely fair to change the standards all the time but I also don’t think it’s fair to have one blanket standard either. It’s case-by-case.
My brain is running out of gas so I will leave my thoughts there for now. I’d really love to hear your thoughts on the matter.