What do you do when you love a writer but disagree or detest his personal choices and beliefs? When I was younger, a friend handed me Henry Miller. I was immediately seduced by his passion for life and his fast-paced language. He described everything with such joy and humor. He lived life to the fullest. This included using money his wife sent him to visit prostitutes. I was 18, and grew up a fundamentalist Christian. Paying women for sex was wrong. Cheating on your wife was wrong. Not having a 9-5 job was wrong. . . . There was a lot of wrong stuff happening in Tropic of Cancer. But I loved him and learned to separate him from his writing (which was tricky as a lot of his stuff is confessionalist.) But also, I was still brainwashed with these antiquated notions of what was right and wrong. Bukowski was another one. Dirty old man writing about drinking, women, gambling. But as I matured as a person and a reader I realized you could separate the artist from the art.
I read Death on the Installment Plan, Journey to the End of the Night, and Guignol’s Band by Louis-Ferdinand Céline. I loved the grittiness and style. All those ellipses. . . . I’d never read anything like him before. Years later, I found out he was anti-Semitic. Please bear in mind, this was when I first started to mature as a reader. I’m embarrassed to say I don’t know if his racism came through in his writing. I plan on rereading him just to see. I had such fond memories of reading his books. I had a postcard of him framed on my wall for years. This was before all this information was available on the internet. I had no idea. I studied Ezra Pound‘s Cantos in graduate school. I heard that he too was anti-Semitic and someone brought it up in class (before I did) and the professor dismissed the question. Would not even talk about it. Just last year a colleague told me that T.S. Eliot was anti-Semitic as well. He said to me, “oh yeah, they all were,” and shrugged, as if to say, “what can you do about it? they’re all dead now”. I’m certain our reactions would be if they were living.
In high school I read Ender’s Game for the first time. I recall reading it in class under my desk. I read almost all his books. Every year I reread Ender’s Game. Years later, Orson Scott Card returned to the Ender’s Game world. I was on vacation in New York City. There were so many things for me to do, so many friends to visit, and I went straight to a McDonald’s and sat there for two hours reading his book. It’s one of my fondest reading memories. (Yes, I understand the absurdity). I was so excited; I had tears in my eyes. Almost twenty years later he wrote a sequel to the book I never thought would be written. What I’m trying to establish here, is how many years I’ve been reading his writing. I have lived in his world for over twenty years.
Last year, my friend told me his boyfriend doesn’t like Orson Scott Card because he’s anti-gay marriage. I thought, no, he must be wrong, Orson Scott Card has created strong gay characters. No, he’s wrong, but I didn’t want to argue. I made a mental note to look it up. But I never did. I have an iPhone. It’d be really easy to verify that my friend’s boyfriend was wrong. But some part of me feared that Card really was a homophobe. I avoided looking it up. Another friend bought Card’s latest novel, Shadows in Flight, read it, and gave it to me. I didn’t spend any money on it. So I didn’t need to research it. I thought, when I read it, I’ll research it. I picked it up to read multiple times and put it down each time. Why? I didn’t want to know the truth. Another colleague had told me Card was homophobic. I finally picked up the book, read it, loved it, and typed in Orson Scott Card and gay marriage.
You can read the entire nonsense here:
He wrote the article thirteen years ago. He says he stands by what he wrote when he meant it. The gist of it is that Card does not want to repeal laws that punish homosexual acts; nor does he want to be persecute people for being gay. But he does not want to encourage people to be gay. According to him, you cannot lead a righteous life if you are gay. He also believes that gay people already have equal rights but are not content with civil liberties and want more, like marriage, which endangers the sanctity of marriage. He writes:
Oddly enough, even as I am attacked by some as a homophobe, I am attacked by others as being too supportive of homosexuality, simply because I cannot see individual homosexuals, in or out of my books, as anything other than human beings with as complex a combination of good and evil in them as I find within myself. In my own view, I am walking a middle way, which condemns the sin but loves the sinner.
So there you have it. A brilliant man who has created this amazing and original world does not see himself as a homophobe even though he opposes gay marriage. He alludes to respecting homosexuals. But later he refers to homosexual acts as sinful. It breaks my heart. Because I’ve loved and respected him for years. It’s like finding out your favorite relative is homophobic. They may not use slurs but their views are just as ugly. What do you do? He is not a corporation that I can easily ban. His words, his characters, his worlds have been part of my life for over two decades. His characters feel like my relatives. If I knew his views before I read him, I would have avoided him. I want to say, “I’m throwing out all his books!” But I can’t. But I have decided not to buy another of his books. I’m not going to lie, it won’t be easy. I’ll still look at them longingly in the bookstores.