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Should we stop reading into authors’ lives and get back to their books?

(From The Guardian. Link to the complete article given below)

As soon as the news of VS Naipaul’s death broke a few weeks ago, a thousand think pieces rose as one, as though to take his place. His legacy was both attacked and defended, his misogyny and racism condemned and forgiven. This frenzied conversation crystallised around a question readers have been grappling with for years, but with increasing urgency: to what extent should we consider an artist’s personality, politics and ethics relevant to our appreciation of their work?

It seems that almost no one can separate the writer from the books when it comes to Naipaul. The same is true of our response to work by authors who have recently been accused of various levels of misconduct following #metoo. In the past week alone, compelling and devastating reports of abuse by lauded authors have appeared in the media: Gwyn Conger Steinbeck, John Steinbeck’s second wife, detailed his sadism and womanising in a memoir that has recently come to light; author Joyce Maynard has written of her experiences with JD Salinger, who summoned her to live with him when she was 18 and he was 53.

Practical criticism – the academic approach to texts that aims to consider words on the page independently of their author or the reader’s preconceived ideas – began almost 100 years ago; now, in 2018, such death of the author” talk appears to be dead itself. While the takes on Naipaul were diverse, and some argued that Naipaul’s bad character was irrelevant to his work, the fact of his bad character was always front and centre. It could not go unmarked– but what remains to be decided is the extent to which it marks the legacy of a Nobel prize-winning author.

Read more at The Guardian link here

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The Lounge Chair Interview: 10 Questions with Shashi Warrier

by Zafar Anjum
Shashi warriorLet’s get down to brass tacks. Why do you write?

It runs in the family. Four uncles were writers and poets, and my father translated a few books from Malayalam to English. I started late, at the age of 35, and wished I’d got to it earlier.

Tell us about your most recent book or writing project. What were you trying to say or achieve with it?

I’m currently working on Swami, a novel about an alcoholic but committed journalist investigating the possible misdeeds of a godman based in southern India. The investigation leads him in unexpected directions, and changes his life.

My last published book is The Girl Who Didn’t Give Up, which was released earlier this year by Westland, and is about paedophile rings in Goa and the influence they have.