Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

5 talented writers who are terrible people.

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Sometimes an author does or says something so terrible that it is difficult to enjoy their work anymore.

1. Orson Scott Card is a homophobe and an outright idiot. But I love Ender's Game, and I think it is one of the great Science Fiction novels of all time. It would be a stupid loss if nobody read it, just because it was written by someone whose idea of logic is saying that if gays wanted to get married, they could. They just had to marry someone of the opposite sex. Wikipedia says that he has, "described homosexuality as an acquired characteristic linked to abuse or molestation in childhood." That's just swell. So, while it'd be a shame if nobody read Ender's Game, I sure am hoping they buy it used.

2. Patricia Highsmith was an anti-semite later in her life. I mean, maybe she was an anti-semite earlier in life but didn't talk about it as much. I'm not sure how people become racists. Maybe it is an acquired characteristic linked to molestation? Or maybe they just get hit by a car and racism is a form of head injury. If this happened later in her life, it could explain the difference between her amazing early work, and her brutally bad last novel, "small g."

3. Woody Allen raises the interesting question of which aspect of incest is the grossest part, the abuse of a position of power, or the biological relationship. I really enjoy his movies and his essays, and I feel bad for picking on him just because he used a position of authority to seduce his girlfriend's adopted daughter. When it was in all the newspapers and a front page scandal, he said, "The heart wants what the heart wants." And I guess that's true even if there's technically coercion involved. He's the real victim here.

4. JT Leroy turned out to actually be Laura Albert, a 44 year old woman who insisted that she never represented the works of JT Leroy as memoir. It was always portrayed as fiction, despite the obvious similarities between the JT Leroy persona and the characters in the books. I mean it's silly that people got so upset. James Frey claimed to have helped people kick their addictions in order to seem more likeable and sympathetic. All Laura Albert did was pretend to be a sexually abused teen prostitute. Which is too bad, because they were pretty good books!

5. Dave Sim, the creator of the often very funny and strange Cerebus the Aardvark comic, thinks that women are emotional voids and giant leeches that attach to men and suck them dry. Every time he opens his mouth, it sounds like exactly the kind of thing they find scrawled on the walls of a serial killer's basement apartment. "If you look at her and see anything besides emptiness, fear and emotional hunger, you are looking at the parts of yourself which have been consumed to that point." Charming! I bet you say that to all the girls.


Good topic. If we could stretch this to 7 writers, I'd include US Poet Ed Dorn (linked to the Black Mountain writers), author of Slinger, but an upfront homophobe; and Louis-Ferdinand Celine, a fascist who wrote the great novel North.
The Marquis de Sade, although not a great writer, wasn't much fun on a date either, probably.

Card used to be quite progressive, and open to other points of view. But I gather he got taken aside by the Mormon elders and told that if he didn't adopt their crabbed, rigid ideology completely, his salvation would be in jeopardy. So he abandoned reality and humanity, and went with the delusion instead. I finally got so sick of his anti-human homophobia that I ripped all his books that I had to shreds, and threw them away.

Kleptomaniac of Shiny Ideas

It's such a shame about Dave Sim. "[O]ften very funny and strange" doesn't even begin to cover how astonishingly brilliant Cerebus can be at times, and how it opened up the form. In many ways it remains completely unchallenged in terms of technical sophistication and experimentation, and he had such a sharp eye for literary parody and homage (see the Fitzgerald and Hemingway parodies, and the soul-wrenching Melmoth). Jaka's Story had nuance that most literary writers would kill to achieve... And then there's that big, nasty, insane blot that dominates everything from the beginning of Mothers&Daughters right up to the end (despite the lovely bit with Astoria and Suenteus Po in Reads). It becomes a little easier to understand Sim's breakdown (though not to excuse the form it took, of course) when you realize that he's a (legitimately diagnosed) borderline paranoid schizophrenic who used to self-medicate with LSD. In the end, I think I feel sorry for him more than anything. Apparently he wasn't always like that.

It constantly pains me that Orson Scott Card is such a complete and utter twat. Ender's Game is probably my favourite book ever, but Orson Scott Card is certainly not my favourite author.

The views expressed in the Writer-in-Residence blogs are those held by the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of Open Book: Toronto.

Joey Comeau

Joey Comeau is the author of Overqualified and Lockpick Pornography. With photographer Emily Horne, he creates the comic A Softer World. One Bloody Thing After Another is his latest book.

Go to Joey Comeau’s Author Page