Sins of the Author

Lately, the child-lit digest is a twitter over author K.P. Bath’s arrest and guilty plea for possession of child pornography. Here’s a link to the Google News page so you can read and synthesize different journalists’ takes. http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&tbs=nws:1,sbd:1&q=kp+bath+author&aq=f&aqi=&aql=&oq=&gs_rfai=

The central question for authors, readers, and industry professionals is at what point should an author’s personal life be included with the reception and inclusion of a book? Can we keep the text separate from the creator, or are they intrinsically linked?

I’m reminded of the time a while ago some people got their knickers in a twist over a sighting of JK Rowling in a lingerie shop. My thought: the grown woman is married; what of it? And even if she had not been, what difference does it make? The rational way to think is that the author is not his/her story. The author is a person with a life outside the fiction, however much real events/people may have colored the creation of characters and plots.

But Bath’s crime was against children. As he decided to plead guilty (in exchange for dropping charges of distribution – CNN), I’m not inclined to give him any benefit of the doubt (like he had them for research for a project). I certainly wouldn’t let children near him, but do we let them near his books? Was it right for his publisher to cancel his forthcoming novel? I think the texts (devoid of any content related to his crime) can stand on their own and be enjoyed for what they are. It makes complete fiscal sense to pull his manuscript – no one will want to buy the man’s books, and he won’t be available for marketing. But editorially…I could argue for dissociating the work from the creator…a pen name, an anonymous provision. Think about your favorite Newbery/Printz/Caldecott winner. Would you justify still its existence if you knew the author/illustrator was convicted of a terrible crime?

Judging books by their creators and not their content can lead to the slippery slope argument  that if he’s this undesirable political party or if she’s with that group that stands for the thing I don’t like, then their work shouldn’t be supported. In regard to that, I say, put aside your personal beef and instead “Think of  the children.” They may need that book and your bravery to be actual parents and help them differentiate between idolizing the person in their head (this author is my very best friend!), the person who is real, and the fiction they love.

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