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Author Topic: Other: Marion Bradley child abuse disclosure: does if change how you view her work?  (Read 4168 times)

carillion

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After reading the full disclosure of marion zimmer bradley's child abuse involvement ( I knew her husband was involved and she admitted covering up for him but was shocked to discover that she herself has been accused by her daughter of sexually abusing her) ,I  wondered how much an author's 'real life' effected people's choice of books or if it changed views already made.

I remember when younger I was enjoying Mishima's 'Sea of Fertility's tetrology when one of my English profs. asked how I could possibly like his work given how he lived.

I find it hard some time to read Ezra Pound and am much more critical of him than his words may warrant.

It's...difficult both to judge the work and not the author and one is tempted to say that at times the work rises above the author but still. I guess also depends on the accusations/ guilt. While I can read Pound because of the era he came out of and because the poems I like are not about his bigotry it still difficult not to let my knowledge of his beliefs colour my perception of his work.

And even if I liked Bradley, I could never read her work again without thinking of her personal life and perhaps even seeing it in her work.

What do you think?
« Last Edit: May 07, 2019, 03:14:51 pm by RandallS »

carillion

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Quote from: carillion;157651

And even if I liked Bradley, I could never read her work again without thinking of her personal life and perhaps even seeing it in her work.

What do you think?

 
I don't think there's anything wrong with that at all. Art in whatever form doesn't exist in some pure vacuum cut off from the real world; it's a product of the people who made it and their energy (however one defines that) is part of the art.

When I was in the sixth grade a teach gave me the book Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card and it changed my life. It was a very formative book for me and I saw myself in Ender: a smart kid who felt isolated, used and ignored by adults, bullied by other kids.

Orson Scott Card (who lived in my hometown for a bit, by the way) has donated a lot of his time and money to anti-marriage equality groups, which absolutely sickens me. (He's also written at least one short story that's aggressively anti-abortion with phrases like "you need a license to own a uterus.")

Even taking out the magical/spiritual interpretation of energy, it's emotionally very distressing for me to think of involving myself with work that is connected to someone who not only believes things I find abhorrent, but actively works against my own humanity (as a queer person in possession of a uterus). Even if I were to reread Ender's Game and find not a drop of commentary about LGBT folks in there... it'd still be there, you know?

I don't think artists should be separate from their work. I've heard the argument that art "deserves" to be judged on its own merits which I think is a load of crap. Art doesn't deserve anything and people deserve to be judged on their actions, and if authors, musicians, and other artists do really awful things in their lives then why would I want to respect what they create?
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Faemon

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Quote from: carillion;157651
What do you think?

 
Bradley, unlike Orson Scott Card, is dead. I think that means The Mists of Avalon has cut the cord and, whoever the property-holders are, wherever the money goes each time someone buys a copy...the story now belongs to the readers, to take whatever shape that it will take. Bradley was just the vessel to get the story out there. It's too late for a boycott to mean anything, (like, "we will not support sexual predators, no matter how famously genius a wrier or director or whatever they are") but it's always the time for analysis and worthy discussions about the impact of the work.

Second, I did not have a clue about any of this, but when I think back to this one scene in particular that really, really, really bothered me in Mists (during Morgaine's ritual deflowering, the whole tribe was having an orgy outside and Bradley describe this old hunter getting it on with a prepubescent girl--it was just one line, and I was like, "uh...wha?" and blocked it out I guess--and continued reading.)

So, I got caught up with your links, first thinking, "Maybe that explains it...But oh, that's an effed-up home situation and enablers of abuse can be in a bad place themselves, so if Bradley just shut down and went along with it then--"

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Quote from: Sage;157665

I don't think artists should be separate from their work. I've heard the argument that art "deserves" to be judged on its own merits which I think is a load of crap. Art doesn't deserve anything and people deserve to be judged on their actions, and if authors, musicians, and other artists do really awful things in their lives then why would I want to respect what they create?

 
One of the things that I think makes art art is that it has a voice beyond the creator (and quite possibly beyond the creator's intention.) And however the work comes into being, if it's a thing of art, and it speaks to a particular need that I value, it's not the work's fault where it came from.

So there's a difference for me between supporting the artist and recognising that there are things of merit in the work. I can appreciate the work, but not want to pay for the author's rent, or cat food, or Internet access, or whatever else.

One of the things about modern technology is that we know a lot more about the lives of the creators whose work we're dealing with. Sometimes that's an awesome thing, and sometimes that's a pretty horrible one.

Sometimes we have that information for historical works - but, for example, Mozart made amazing music, while doing things in his personal life that weren't excellent. Wagner's music has a lot of wonderful bits, but he also held political and social beliefs that are abhorrent to me. And so on and so on.

When I started thinking about this (back with Orson Scott Card as one of the initial reasons to start coming up with a thing I could live with ethically and thinking about some of the implications that come up as a librarian), I decided to make the distinction between 'am I supporting this author' and 'is this a work with merits that stands on its own, perhaps *despite* the author?'

So, when an author or a musician or a whatever does things I feel are actively wrong (rather than just not my taste or political preference or whatever), I don't buy their work. I don't review their work in public places, and I don't generally encourage other people to buy it. (Except in very specific circumstances, when I can do a "Let me give you background on the creator, first, and here's why I'm recommending this anyway.")

I may buy it for a library I work for, if it suits the other collection development criteria - for example, many libraries have a routine practice of buying all the award titles for particular award, or buy based on user requests to at least some degree. But given a choice of "I need to buy 5 books in this sub-genre to fill things out, but there's no strong reason to buy a particular title", I will choose works from authors who have impressed me, or that reflect diverse voices in the genre, or who deal well with complex issues. Hopefully more than one of those three. Since budgets are limited, this means I'm less likely to buy books from authors I consider highly problematic.

But at the same time, I don't necessarily dump those titles from my personal library, and I might pick up a copy used, if it is a book that I in fact want to read for whatever reason. (This is, clearly, easier to do with books than with music because the used book market is much easier to access.)

That said, it varies highly when I do that - I'm way less likely to seek out works where the issue I have with the author is likely to be a significant aspect of the work. Because I'd still have the issue with the content then.
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Quote from: carillion;157651
What do you think?

 

It does not change how I view her work.

That said, my opinion was never favorable to begin with. I only ever read Firebrand myself and I never figured out just how I managed to read it without ripping it to pieces first, it was painful and tedious. I don't recall anything in the book that I feel I would be immediately includes to read these atrocities into, but I have no interest in thinking too hard about the question either.

Queen of Wands

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Quote from: carillion;157651


And even if I liked Bradley, I could never read her work again without thinking of her personal life and perhaps even seeing it in her work.

What do you think?

 

I've been wondering about this myself. The Mists of Avalon was one of my favorite books in high school, I took it out of the library all the time. Now I'm morally grateful that I never bought a copy (although I hear her digital publisher and some of her co-authors are donating all royalties to charities that help child victims). I think, knowing that the money was going to help people, I would consider buy those books.

The whole art + artist umbilical cord is extremely complicated: Orson Scott Card, for example. Even further back in time, when society had different opinions than we accept today (Gone With the Wind, anyone?). Do we take to those strictly at their literary value or dismiss them as artifacts of their period and impossible to be taken seriously in today's world?

carillion

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Quote from: Queen of Wands;158300

The whole art + artist umbilical cord is extremely complicated: Orson Scott Card, for example. Even further back in time, when society had different opinions than we accept today (Gone With the Wind, anyone?). Do we take to those strictly at their literary value or dismiss them as artifacts of their period and impossible to be taken seriously in today's world?

 
I tend to give consideration for the time period and culture the person was in.For instance, Tolkien was very much a 'man of his times'. Notice how Sam never leaves off referring to Frodo as 'master'? Or that the Orcs speak in a Cockney dialect?

Mitchell was already very conversant on the treatment of black people and knew better. Well, from what I've read she did actually believe black people were inferior and there were certainly enough people around her to disabuse her of that notion.Even Varina Davis recanted later in life!

But if what an author engaged in was and is *always* unaceptable ( like child abuse, sexual and physical abuse of any kind, sadism, etc.) then no, I'll give their stuff a miss.

It *is* a dificult question.

RandallS

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Quote from: carillion;157651
And even if I liked Bradley, I could never read her work again without thinking of her personal life and perhaps even seeing it in her work.

I tend to separate what people are from what they produce. Throughout history, lots of people with major flaws have produced things of enduring value (both in the arts and the sciences). Rejecting what they have produced because of unrelated things they have done would leave the world a poorer place.

For example, many of the people who made the US a nation kept slaves -- should we toss out the US Constitution because many who supported slavery or even kept slaves had major influence on that document? What if someone discovered a cure for cancer but was a mass murderer, should we refuse to use the cure for cancer because the person who discovered it was Evil with a capital "E"? Etc.

I try not to support living artists whose politics or personal behavior I cannot stand by refusing to buy their works new -- although I will buy them used as they don't get any money from the transaction. After they are dead, however, they are no longer getting anything from a purchase of their work, so all refusing to buy it new does is deny money to their heirs who likely are not guilty of the actions or beliefs of the person whose behavior annoyed me.

When it comes to non-artistic creations, I only boycott if the boycott hurts the offending creator without really hurting others who do not deserve being hurt over it. I don't support the positions of the people who own Hobby Lobby, for example, so I don't buy there as I have other places I can buy the same things (and their employees could work elsewhere). If they were the only place to buy items I really needed, however, I would not punish myself or my family by refusing to buy them. The cure for cancer bit is an extreme example of what I mean: if someone like John Gacy had developed a cure for cancer and I had cancer, I certainly would not refuse to use the cure just because the guy who developed it was a serial murderer/rapist.
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carillion

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Quote from: RandallS;158399
I tend to separate what people are from what they produce. Throughout history, lots of people with major flaws have produced things of enduring value (both in the arts and the sciences). Rejecting what they have produced because of unrelated things they have done would leave the world a poorer place.

For example, many of the people who made the US a nation kept slaves -- should we toss out the US Constitution because many who supported slavery or even kept slaves had major influence on that document? What if someone discovered a cure for cancer but was a mass murderer, should we refuse to use the cure for cancer because the person who discovered it was Evil with a capital "E"? Etc.

I try not to support living artists whose politics or personal behavior I cannot stand by refusing to buy their works new -- although I will buy them used as they don't get any money from the transaction. After they are dead, however, they are no longer getting anything from a purchase of their work, so all refusing to buy it new does is deny money to their heirs who likely are not guilty of the actions or beliefs of the person whose behavior annoyed me.

When it comes to non-artistic creations, I only boycott if the boycott hurts the offending creator without really hurting others who do not deserve being hurt over it. I don't support the positions of the people who own Hobby Lobby, for example, so I don't buy there as I have other places I can buy the same things (and their employees could work elsewhere). If they were the only place to buy items I really needed, however, I would not punish myself or my family by refusing to buy them. The cure for cancer bit is an extreme example of what I mean: if someone like John Gacy had developed a cure for cancer and I had cancer, I certainly would not refuse to use the cure just because the guy who developed it was a serial murderer/rapist.

I agree up to a point. Thomas Jefferson is a good example of what I was referring to as a 'person of their time'. And there are many such examples. It is only in this relatively small time-slice that people have started to stand back and question whether seperating the person and what they created is necessary.
The example of a heinous individual who develops a useful thing is, I think, a different case if what is produced is 'inert' or does not have the capactity to pass on something bad.The example you used will do.If a serial murderer created a cure for some disease, that product does not carry that murderers 'views'.

I've always said that just because someone is crazy doesn't mean they are stupid.

So for me it depends on whether an artistic creation can be used to either indulge or further sick ideas. For example, 'Gone with the Wind' may not be the most racist book ever written, but it is certainly used to further the ideas it carries. I remember going into a museum in a Southern state which while almost completley ignoring the Civil War, had it's gift shop stacked to the rafters with 'Gone with the wind' books, cups, lunch boxes- you name it.
Wagner was a dreadful anti-semite and his works were not played in Israel until 2012. However, those that defended him did point out that even though his work had been co-opted by nazis , it wasn't written *for* or about them.

However, subjective artisiic or creative works ( and that includes political tretise) that have the capacity to further noxious views make me not want to contribute to their creator in any way. That includes works where the artist/writer is glorifyng their own unpalatable tastes but in an 'imaginary' guise.
« Last Edit: September 08, 2014, 03:58:50 pm by carillion »

Nyktelios

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Quote from: carillion;157651
What do you think?

 
I struggled with this, as Mists is one of my most favourite books, and had a large spiritual impact on me as a teen. I still read it about once a year. It's hard to believe someone capable of that kind of abuse could produce something so profound, though I realize that's a naive perspective, and anything's possible.

I always found the women in The Mists of Avalon to be very protective and caring to female children especially, such as Igraine, Viviane, and even Morgause with Morgaine, and Morgaine later on with Nimue. I don't want to dismiss her daughter's allegations, but I don't necessarily think we are getting a full picture. MZB is long dead and can't defend herself, but then again, artists who produce the most profound work are often severely damaged people.

Not to make excuses, but it sounds like she was often surrounded by some really messed up people, like her ex-husband and her female lover at the time of her death. I'm sure those kinds of influences can bring out the worst in someone who possibly was not psychologically stable to begin with. I would like to believe she had some good in her, even though she didn't direct it towards her children. People are complex, I think it's possible to be capable of deplorable things in come contexts, and have good intentions and important ideas in other contexts.

From my own experience with her books (I've only read her Avalon books and The Firebrand, and I didn't like the latter), I find it hard to dismiss her work so easily as that of an abuser, and think in such black-and-white terms. I think her work still has value, though it would be nice if proceeds could now go towards organizations that help victims of abuse.

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Quote from: carillion;157654
Here are a couple of links in case some were not aware of the recent Bradley disclosures:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/act-four/wp/2014/06/27/re-reading-feminist-author-marion-zimmer-bradley-in-the-wake-of-sexual-assault-allegations/

http://wildhunt.org/2014/06/marion-zimmer-bradley-abuse-and-cautionary-tales.html


I don't see any disclosures there. I see lots of allegations, unproven and unprovable 15 years after Bradley's death.

I'll give Moira the benefit of the doubt and accept she believes all she says. That doesn't necessarily mean that things actually happened that way. Again, any kind of proof won't be forthcoming.

I haven't read many of Bradley's books, but I have enjoyed what I've read (Mists of Avalon, Night's Daughter, Forest House, Lythande) and see no reason not to re-read them.
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