I'll come up with something in a minute.

When it becomes too much

So the last two days, while I was bitching about the flaws in I, Robot, Syd has been telling me other Asmoiv books I should read instead. It’s not even that the book was entirely valueless, although the streak of sexism put me off mightily. She hasn’t offered up much defense for the book, choose to deflect my criticism with lines like “Product of his times” and “He got better about that, he really did get better.” The problem is, I’m not sure I care. The writing was dry and the stories were just thought experiments, answering questions no one asked. It’s not encouraging.

She’s trying to claim that she told me to start with Caves of Steel, but I recall that she told me the books go in order and if you start in the wrong place you won’t know what’s going on. There is a published order and a chronological order as I understand it, and if you try to read chronological first, you will get confused. So I started at the beginning, which is often the best place to start anyway. However, I can accept that this is just the wrong book to start with and I’ll give him one more try before I declare him anathema and punch anyone I happen meet with muttonchops just in hopes of getting my feelings to him.

That’s not what I really want to talk about though, what I want to talk about is the “product of his times” thing. I don’t buy that, and I don’t tolerate it. People try to hide behind that, saying we mustn’t judge past works by today’s standards, to which I say bullshit. Either a writer transcends their time or they don’t. I’m never asked to make excuses for Dashiell Hammett, nor do I ever feel compelled to. He’s either a profane or acceptable as he is. In some cases, the profanity is the point, in some cases it’s merely a side issue. Of course it’s entirely possible that I excuse or ignore the annoying things because I get into the story. His works are engaging, while works that aren’t engaging me have a greater tendancy to have elements that annoy me.

On that same point, but slightly different, Edgar Allan Poe was a flat out misogynist. Sure, when you peruse his selected works it hardly comes out, but look deeper and you’ll see it. Read A Predicament sometime and you uncover not just a humor piece, but also a deep dislike for women writers. Keep reading his works and you find someone with a serious problem with women. Sometimes worshipful, sometimes violent, never healthy. He can usually keep that out of most his stories though, normally by ignoring women entirely, so his issue is rarely brought up. When it is though, it ruins the whole story.

There comes a point where a writer just looses me because of some of his or her foibles and prejudices. There comes a point where I am hyper sensitive to those things and each time they come up, it will ruin the book for me and make me set it down. These can kill a book, or even the idea of ever reading that author. Quite often, it will turn me off them forever. Mainly because there are so many things to read, watch, and do that I find my time limited and I don’t wish to spend it being pissed off at shitty writing.

Stephen King is a good example. No matter how much I once liked his work, when he gets going I can no longer read him. I’ve tried to go back and read some of his stuff lately, and it’s just not happening. I can no longer read him, because his things keep jumping out at me. The last couple of attempts, its been one thing. It’s why I just stopped dead on Full Dark, No Stars and why I just decided not to finish The Stand and it’s the reason I cannot stand what is supposed to be his best novel “IT” one little bit.

Oddly, it comes down to one word.

Stephen King uses the word nigger with relish. He isn’t trying to prove a point, he just loves to write the word nigger. Do I think King is racist? On the contrary, he uses it in a context that I feel proves he has a very anti-racist streak inside him. It’s almost always the villain and is always used to show what an asshole the person using it is. And yet… he fucking loves that word more than I love the word fuck. He delights in a chance to use it, and he uses it a lot. Like, ALOT a lot. It puts me off, because I’ve been around real, genuine, hood wearing racists, and they don’t use the word as much as he does. I’ve gotten to the point that once the N bomb is dropped, I stop listening. If you can remember when the word was first used in Full Dark, No Stars then you know exactly when I stopped reading. I wasn’t enjoying the story at any rate, but that was the tipping point. I just got to the point in The Stand where Larry’s mother used it and I decided I had just had enough of that bullshit and turned it off.

Thing is… if another writer were to use the word, it wouldn’t bother me as much. It has become a thing with me and King, every time he uses that word, I tune out. Interestingly though, when he doesn’t use the word, I’m often fine with his work. Yes, some of it is annoying bullshit that no one should ever have to read, but it rarely makes me turn it off. His themes with bullies will make me stop though, quite regularly I’ll stop one of his books for that. My tolerance for stupid, unrealistic bullies has completely vanished in recent years.

Now that’s just King, but it exists with other writers and filmmakers as well. Gets to a point where I just don’t want to spend my time with something that I know is going to annoy me. Does that make me prejudicial? Well, yeah, sort of the definition if I pre-judge a work based on the authors earlier output. Am I missing some great stories as a result? Maybe, but I’ll get great stories elsewhere and I probably won’t have to have the pall of annoyance hanging over me.

April 27, 2012 - Posted by | Uncategorized |

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