Respecting Authors I Don’t Read

I was having a lovely and enlightening conversation with a lady over the weekend; she is also a writer and avid reader, and we had tons to discuss in both interest areas.

We talked about authors whose books we liked, and at some point in our discussion, I “came out” about my prudishness.  (I don’t flaunt it so much as I try to mention it in passing before well-meaning folks waste their breath recommending books and movies I can’t enjoy.)  So then, she asked me, “If you’re a prude, how come you like Tamora Pierce?”

Dun dun dun dunnnnnn.  She must have mentioned the name earlier and I must have politely complimented Pierce, because she’s clearly an accomplished and talented writer.  Her books are everywhere, and I’ve even borrowed a few from the library — I just never got far enough into them.

But wait, I thought.  Why did I stop borrowing her books, aside from the fact that they didn’t hold my interest?  Then, I remembered flipping through the pages of Alana, blushing heavily, and putting it back on the shelf.*

The lady was right that I’m a prude and Tamora Pierce’s books aren’t for me.  Which brings us back to the question.  Why would I like her?

To admire and respect an author, one doesn’t necessarily have to like their books.  I respect Tamora Pierce, Jodi Picoult, Jerry Spinelli, Michael Grant (of Gone infamy), and even Judy Blume for their successes as authors.   If there was a “gentlemen’s edition” (like this) of On Writing, I’m sure I could learn so much from the massively successful Stephen King.   I really wish I could.

Likewise, I have made plenty of writing friends whose writings may not always be appropriate for my sensitivities.  That certainly shouldn’t stop us from being friends or honing our skills together.

My answer to the question was something to the extent of, “I may not appreciate what Ms. Pierce writes, but I respect her for her achievements and success.  Even if it’s not for me to read, she’s clearly good at what she does.”

And then we talked about our latest projects.  All in all, I learned a ton from our conversation.

* It’s apparently not uncommon in fantasy stories geared at tweenage girls for the young female protagonist to enter puberty (and then some) at a critical point in the story, which, I suppose, is why I don’t read that sort of story all that often.  (It’s hardly plot-relevant the times I’ve come across it, but maybe I’m a biased prude.)  It’s nice to be able to relate to a character in some way, especially if they live in a totally alien setting festooned with elves, dragons, goblins, and “magick”; and sometimes, there isn’t a better figure (like a mother or aunt or grandmother) in these readers’ lives to help them cope with these stages of development they inevitably experience themselves; but personally, I think we’re all much better off discussing these matters with our doctors, not authors whose books, if I may add, are often on the same shelf as books boys read.  (Some boys actually like fantasy too, which is great, and I’m sure a lot of them wouldn’t appreciate those girly scenes.  But how should I know?)  We can’t exactly segregate library books based on their intended audiences without being labeled chauvinists, can we?  To paraphrase the King of Siam, ’tis one puzzlement of a digression!

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