Short Stories, Irish literature, Classics, Modern Fiction, Contemporary Literary Fiction, The Japanese Novel, Post Colonial Asian Fiction, The Legacy of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and quality Historical Novels are Among my Interests

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Scott G. F. Bailey A Question and Answer Session with the Author of The Astrologer


Last August I read and posted on a superb historical novel by Scott G. F. Bailey, The Astrologer. Here is a bit of my thoughts on this work

The Astrologer by Scott G. F. Bailey is a first rate historical novel set in the opening years of the seventeenth century in Denmark, at the royal court.  The lead character, the royal astrologer, Soren Adersmann, was a protege of the pioneering astronomer Tycho Bache (1546 to 1601).  In the period of the novel, there was little or no distinction between observational astronomy and what we called astrology.   The line between science, religion, and superstitions were not just blurred, the concept of the separations between these factors had just begun to evolve.  The Renissance came later to Scandanavia than it did more southern parts of Europe.  The only real way for what we call pure scientists to work was under the patronage of royal courts.  Bailey does a brilliant job of showing how the blurring of distinctions we take for granted impact the thinking of the time.  Tycho Bache was murdered in October 1601, the story line is in part, it begins in December 1601, driven by Soren seeking to discover who killed him as he seeks revenge. 

Much of the plot action revolves around activities at the Royal Danish Court.  What matters most is the will of the king.  It is a blood thirsty time where people die at a whim.   Soren is drawn into conspiracies at court.  In one very interesting segment the Queen demands that Soren cast a horoscope for her son, in his teens, that will persuade the king to keep him out of a forthcoming battle. If he does not do what she wants she could have him killed and if the king finds out he certainly will die a painful death.  

The prose of The Astrologer has an old fashioned majestic feel that fits the setting and time perfectly.  Bailey made court life very real for me.  We can see Soren knows he is an intellectual time of paradigm flux, the old faith based models of understanding the universe no longer seem valid but to openly question them is serious heresy.  

Lots of exciting things happen in the novel and I was kept inthralled by the many intriuquing plot twists and turns.   I learned many  things about Danish history from this very well researched novel. I must admit I did not know Denmark had poisoness snakes and one plays a crucial deadly part and I must say hilariouslly so, in a murder and revenge theme that is central to the novel.

I found The Astrologer a tremendously entertaining novel beautifully crafted by a very aware artist.  There are fights, conspiracies, and we find things, memories and people are not what we first think they are.

I am very happy and honored that Scott has agreed to do a Q and A session for The Reading Life

Author Bio

"Scott Bailey is occasionally a writer of short stories and novels. He is pretty sure he was born in Beaufort, South Carolina. His youth was spent in various Southern cities in houses that no longer stand, in neighborhoods that have radically changed. Bailey currently labors and sleeps in Seattle. He is the author of the 2013 novel "The Astrologer," and is certain that his best work is still ahead 

It seems literary cultures are strongly impacted by continuity. The literary culture of American seems to have much more shallow roots, to assume a less cultured audience. Contrasting Indian literature, which has older roots than any other culture, it seems to really begin about 1920. The continuity of Indian literature was destroyed by the British rule and writers at first had to use English formats. So what is a very old culture, has a shallowly rooted literary tradition less than 100 years old. Something similar happened in Ireland which has a new literary culture on top of cut off old roots? Question is just react to this, is it nuts or onto something about the differences in literary culture.?
ANSWER: I don't know about Irish literary culture, but I can say that in some segments of American publishing and writing (especially, it seems, in the Manhattan world of publishing/writing), there is a strange desire to establish a particularly "American" literature, to define what "American" writing is and what it means to be an "American" novelist. This sort of Emersonian provincialism, this rejection of Europe and setting up a flag in the New World is tiresome and incestuous. My literary roots go back to Shakespeare, to Cervantes, to Chekhov, to Flaubert, to Chaucer, to Beowulf, to the Mosaic books, all very Western but none American. Faulkner read Dostoyevski, you know? Joyce read Dante and Homer. I think that a lack of roots results in a lot of experimentation that too often only poorly mimics Lawrence Sterne and Miguel Cervantes. "Moby-Dick" owes a tremendous debt to Scripture and to Rabelais. Its status as an "American" novel is really a side issue, one of the least important things about the book.

A.  Please tell us what fascinates you about Tycho Brahe?

SB.  Brahe just sort of came tumbling out of history at me; I had no particular interest in him when I was writing The Astrologer. I was interested in the year 1601, because that's the year Shakespeare wrote "Hamlet," and The Astrologer is a sideways version of "Hamlet." When I saw that Brahe died in 1601 and that some people claim he was murdered, I read up on him, discovering how eccentric he was in real life. It all sort of fell into my lap, and the more I researched Renaissance science, the more interesting it became. Brahe wasn't in any of the first seven drafts of the novel.

B.  What is The Transcendental Detective about?  How is it coming along.

SB.  The Transcendental Detective is a sort of postmodernist novel set on a fictional Oregonian island resort in 1935, and centered around a mad detective named Patience Quince. I think of it as 13 open-ended Chekhovesque short stories through which the detective wanders, in search of the murderer of a Broadway composer. The publisher who was going to put the book out last November went out of business (a sad commentary on the state of small presses in America these days), so I have no idea when or if this book will see the light of day. Currently I'm querying agents about a different novel, called Go Home, Miss America. That's a novel about small-time sinners and small-time saints, and I have no idea how much interest it will generate. You can only talk about Catholicism in a book these days if it's something the protagonist rejects, or if there's a pedophile priest.

C.  There is a lot of research evident in The Astrologer.  Can you tell us a bit about your research methods?

SB. My research is very old-fashioned: books and JSTOR, which is an academic database of scholarly articles (so maybe not all that old-fashioned). I read a lot, half at random, just following what looks interesting. You can spend a month trying to track down a specific fact you want for a scene, like the sort of boots someone wore; in the end you might never find the information so you just make it up for the narrative. So when I do research, I'm looking to get a sort of flavor of places/times, but a lot of what ends up in the stories is pure imagination. The really weird stuff I discover has to go in, though. Always.

D.  As you live in Seattle, how is the creative atmosphere going to be impacted by the legalization of marijuana in the state of Washington?  Do people hang out in marijuana shops writing?  

SB. It's still illegal to smoke pot in public. Seattle isn't Amsterdam. I am not connected to the creative/art scene in Seattle, but I'm willing to bet that legalized marijuana has not raised the level of the artwork produced locally. If someone needs to get fucked up to be creative, they aren't creative; they're just so fucked up that they can't tell the difference. I'm not interested in that sort of art.

E.  You have been trained as a commercial artist and have been involved with music, do you agree with Ford Madox Ford that literature is the primary art?  

SB. I think storytelling is the primary art, but stories can be contained in lots of vessels, not just literature. A Greek bowl or a gothic tapestry tell stories. A Pendleton blanket is a narrative, as is a Buddhist temple. Literature is a form of storytelling. Let's not be more arrogant as novelists than is necessary, right? Literature was FMF's primary art, but not everyone responds directly to literature.

F.  Do you have kind of a reading plan for the next year or so?  Can you please share some of the ideas on your lists with us?

SB. I have a great big pile of books I've bought in the last couple of years, and I plan to read them all through before I buy more books. That's my plan every year, and I keep buying more books so I am clearly a liar.

H.  Do you like the Seattle based American comedy show Frazier?  Are coffee shops as big there as people think?  

SB. No, and yes. Though we used to have coffee carts on every corner, but they've gone the way of the passenger pigeon. I miss the coffee carts. There are a lot of good independent coffee shops, though. A couple of years ago Seattle was saturated with coffee shops; there were some intersections with two or three competing shops on the street corners; you sat in a Tully's and looked across at the SBC and the Starbucks. Absolute madness, but mostly those were big chains which have now shrunk back to less enormous size.

A.  Can you tell us a bit about your writing routine? Do you typically set aside a certain period to write, always write in same place, do you listen to music while you write, do you need solitude to write?

SB.  I try to write every weekday. If I'm drafting, then I'll write at lunch and on my commute home via Metro. If I'm revising, I'll work at lunch. I don't write on weekends, as a rule. I don't write at home much, either. I have too many other interests at home. I write in public, usually. I don't care about music or noise; I just don't like to sit near someone with a penetrating voice. The real work of writing happens in my head, so it doesn't so much matter where my body is, as long as I have a place for the pen and notebook (I also don't work on a computer, which makes it easier to be a portable writer).

B.  if you could give your eighteen year old self one suggestion, what would it be?  

SB.  Don't listen to the old guy giving you suggestions. He's as much of an idiot as you are.

C. " in the name of a humanism hypocritically turned champion of the reader’s rights. Classic criticism has never paid any attention to the reader; for it, the writer is the only person in literature. We are now beginning to let ourselves be fooled no longer by the arrogant antiphrastical recriminations of good society in favour of the very thing it sets aside, ignores, smothers, or destroys; we know that to give writing its future, it is necessary to overthrow the myth: the birth of the reader must be at the cost of the death of the Author."
What is your reaction to these very famous lines from "The Death of the Author" by Roland Barthes?  
SB. I don't know why either reader or writer has to have primacy, though when a book is being read, the reader is the only person who matters. Readers are the people who read. Barthes' "death of the author" stuff is all about being a critic, not about being a reader. Critics are rarely engaged, useful readers. Barthes doesn't matter. These questions of how to interpret the text, how to bring meaning to literature, usually only contact reality in a few places that don't have much meaning to anyone actually reading literature.

D. UNCHARTED LIVES is a fascinating study by gay psychotherapist Stanley Siegel and straight Newsday columnist Ed Lowe Jr. The text is a mass analysis of how gay men develop through the eight male life passages from 'pre-emergence' to 'mentoring'’. The book is the result of numerous interviews and research. This data is balanced with Siegel's own dramatic mid-life coming out story.
When asked why such a seemingly disproportionate number of creative men are gay this was Siegel's response-  

"I think that because gay men live in a society that is hostile to them, because they are oppressed, have few role models, and in most cases have no legal rights or institutions that support and honor us we became extraordinarily inventive in the ways we live our lives. The process of become gay, of accepting one's sexuality, is a process of living an extremely original life. The apparatus of a creative life begins early, when we feel we are different in some way but have no language to explain the difference. Young gay boys feel that almost always and consequently they often isolate themselves or are isolated by the outside world. Isolation presents a creative world. Sometimes in fantasy we deal with separation by becoming highly productive - drawing, writing, creating. Usually this stays with the person the rest of their life and is only enhanced by the challenges they meet later on."
My question is do you think he is onto something?  Is the creativity of Gay men derivative from growing up without role models, from having to create a sense of self?
SB.  I don't know if I believe that there is a higher proportion of creative types among gays than among the general population, but I will say that I think that a sense of isolation in youth seems to be a pretty common denominator among writers. I don't think sexuality is the greatest factor in that sense of isolation. Certainly most sensitive, bookish types will have few role models among their parents no matter who or where they are.

E. "It is the habit of approaching works of art in order to interpret them that sustains the fancy that there really is such a thing as the content of a work of art" - from  "Against Interpetation" by Susan Sontag

As a writer, how do you feel when people Interpet your work, attribute meaning to it?, see things in it you never thought about?  
Who is your ideal reader?  
SB.  Well, we do engage with art in order to engage with another active mind, I think, any time we move beyond the "Ooh, pretty pictures and sounds" stage of perception. Most people probably bring more to a work of art than the artwork itself contains, and attempt to use art as a mirror for themselves rather than as a window into another self, but that's probably okay. I don't think 50,000 years of art history is damaged by the way humans actually interact with art, is it? This idea that the author must somehow be perfectly understood by the reader (or the painter by the viewer or whatever) is mere pride, vanity, beside the point. Every reader of every piece of my writing has seen something different than what I see when I am writing. That's just the way of it. Sometimes it's amusing, sometimes vexing, never is it particularly important.
My ideal reader buys all of my books, in cloth, the week they come out. Someday, hopefully, I'll have tens of thousands of ideal readers.

F.   It seems more and more writers have MAs in creative writing, some PhDs.  Education is a great thing but is there a negative side to this, will it produce  in few years a literary culture where lacking this degree will make it hard to get published?. Is it homogenizing writing styles? Will the day of the amateur writer who comes from nowhere and changes everything be over because of this?  Does it give you pause to know the University of Iowa M A in writing scholarships for students from outside the USA, were for years funded by the C. I. A? 
SB. I have never taken a creative writing class, so I don't know what's going on with them. The subject seems to be pretty hot right now; I think it's a weirdly American phenomenon, probably going back to that search for an "American" literature. Tempest. Teapot.

G.  How important is seeing different parts of the world to you in terms of stimulating your creativity?  

SB. Not much. My stories are about characters, not places or plots. I'm setting a novel-in-progress in Prague and Vienna because last October I was there, but I could as easily set it in Seattle. It's just interesting to write about my vacation spots, to try to get the feel of the places. To create an interesting fictional Prague and a lively fictional Vienna. I think I'm being disingenuous here; this lacks the ring of truth. I guess I don't know what the truth is. I assemble the stories over a long period of time. I have no idea how I get the ideas. I love to travel but I don't think it really helps with the writing, though it's probably true that exposure to anything new is a good thing and might spark ideas.

H.  Where can we find you online?

I.  Besides reading and writing, what are some of your hobbies or interests. ?

SB. I play guitar and violin. We are slowly restoring a 1926 house and sometimes I can be shifted to labor in the garden. Seattle has some excellent parks, the remains of old-growth forests. Seattle also has some excellent micro-distilleries.
2.   Who are some of your favorite contemporary short story writers, poets or novelists?  What classic writers do you find your self drawn to reread.  If a neophyte writer in your primary focus were to ask you who to read, what might you suggest?

SB. I like Jaimy Gordon and Andrea Barrett and Hanna Pittard and Jhumpa Lahiri. I read and re-read Chekhov and Henry James. Anyone who wants to write serious novels should read whatever they find beautiful and meaningful, plus a lot of poetry, plus whatever the classics of their culture may be. My personal reading is all over the place, in no particular order. But young writers, I think, should read from all over, not just the work of other young writers they want to be like.


3.  I sometimes wonder why such a disproportionate amount of the regarded as great literature of the world is written in the colder temperate zones rather than in the tropics.   How big a factor do you think the Irish Weather is in shaping the literary output of its writers.?   I cannot imagine The Brothers Karamazov being written on tropical island, for example. 

SB. Well, the people in northern Europe have had a couple of centuries to declare their own works to be the foundation of classical writing, haven't they? Meanwhile, equatorial peoples have developed their own literary histories that have mostly gone unnoticed by white folks like me. I'm absolutely failing to answer this, I know.

4.   Many cultures are permeated with references to seemingly supernatural creatures, some kind some malevolent.  Do you feel any sense of these entities in the world you look out on in your daily life or in your writings?  Do you sense a continuity between the natural and supernatural worlds.  Is a belief in the supernatural just escapism and wishful thinking?  Is the believe in occult systems the refuge of the powerless? Your novel The Astrologer deals with a time when the lines between religion and science were blurred or nonexistent.  Do you think the American conservative movement as exemplified by the values of Fox News wants a return to those days? 
SB. I don't believe that the American conservative political movement does more than pay lip service to ideas of God and Christ, no matter how loud they are. I can say the same thing about the American liberal political movement. Americans tend to tell pollsters that they "believe in God" or "believe in some sort of spirituality" but then in their daily lives, they do nothing whatsoever to demonstrate any actual faith in anything beyond themselves and their own selfish desires. If Christ came to Earth to redeem mankind, it's the most significant thing any of us can know. It dramatically changes how we should be living. I look around and fail to see that dramatic change in most of the people around me.

5.  These are loaded question coming from me, but with the decline of print reviews, are book blogs becoming more important?  Professional critics have denigrated book bloggers as reviewers without credentials,book bloggers have replied professional reviewers just don't like bloggers doing for free what they ask money for doing? Reviewers do it for money, bloggers for love.  What is your reaction to this?  Do you join book tours or send bulk mailings out asking for reviews?  

SB. I don't do any of the blog tour stuff. My publisher requested reviewers for The Astrologer; I think all publishers do that nowadays. Book blogs are very important, probably more to readers than to writers. Writers (and publishers) have no real idea how to get in front of readers, how to get their attention, how to be valuable to book bloggers without being obnoxious salesmen. You are doing a hugely valuable service to writers with your interview series. I can't tell you how important this is to me. As a reader, book blogs have become far more important to me than print reviews, most of which seem to be written by novelists who just want to keep their name in the public eye. I'm increasingly cynical about professional reviews, sad to say.

6.  When you write, do you picture and audience or do you just write?  

SB. I just write. If I picture an audience, it's my partner Mary. She's my primary and best reader. But mostly I picture the work, the flow and balance and clarity or opacity, as needed.

7.  Assuming this applies to you, how do you get past creative "dry spells", periods when you have a hard time coming up with ideas or when things seem futile? 

SB. I have more ideas for books than I will ever write.

8.  If someone says to you, "I prefer to live life, not just read about it " what is your reaction inside?  (Besides cringing!)

SB. if I've had a few, I usually call that person an idiot. Otherwise, I just shrug. The person who does not read fiction does not know how to live.

9.   What are the last three novels you read?  Last three movies?  do you have any favorite TV shows?  Are there literary works you find reverberate in your mind in happy or in dark times?

SB. Novels: "Memories of My Melancholy Whores" by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
"Ghosts" by Cesar Aira
"The Return of the Soldier" by Rebecca West
I've been watching the new Dr Who TV show.
I go back to Shakespeare and Chekhov all the time. I would like to write something as fine as "To the Lighthouse" some day. 

10.  William Butler Yeats said in "The Literary Movement"-- "“The popular poetry of England celebrates her victories, but the popular poetry of Ireland remembers only defeats and defeated persons.” I see a similarity of this to the heroes of the Philippines.  American heroes were all victors, they won wars and achieved independence. The national heroes of the Philippines were almost all ultimately failures, most executed by Spanish or American Rulers..  How has the fact Yeats is alluding too, assuming you agree,  shaped Irish literature? In America it seems somehow the best short stories writers like Flannery O'Connor, Eudora Welty, and Carson McCullers, all writers admired by Irish authors,  had their sensibilities shaped by the defeat of the south in the American Civil  War.  Feel free to apply this to your heritage.
SB. Humility teaches you about the real world in a way that victory does not. Victors need no compassion; victors need see only themselves and rarely take time to reflect on the meaning of their victory. Et cetera.

11.  Are you open to  e mail, Facebook or Twitter, contact with your readers or do you fear stalkers or don't want to be bothered?
SB Anyone can email me at I don't do twitter or facebook.

12.  A while ago i read and posted on a long biography of Hart Crane, author of the Bridge-few read it but many known of his life style as one of the first Gay poets living out a life of rough trade and wealthy older benefactors-he lived a very chaotic life and died young from suicide by jumping off a cruise ship. His father invented Life Saver Candy and wanted Hart to go in the Candy business with him-so if  Hart had done this and died at 75 rich living in Ohio fat bald and married would he still be even much thought about let alone read?  One of the most referenced poets  by Irish writers last year was Arthur Rimbaud who likewise had a short and chaotic life.   Does a poet  need or naturally tend to a chaotic life?  why so much seeming admiration for writers like Jack Kerouac and others who died way to young from alcohol abuse.  If Ezra Pound had not gone mad, would he still be a role model for the contemporary poet?  (I know this is long, please just respond to it as you will.). Some of this may just be a story about a poet with a stable marriage, a job and no substance issues may seem dull compared to wilder lives.  
SB I think it's that latter idea; a self-destructive creative genius is simply louder and more visible than a calm creative genius. The quality of Kerouac's work is not as high as a hundred writers I could name, who held down jobs and wrote and did not self-destruct. A lot of the great English poets lived long lives, and most of them wrote better stuff than, say, Percy Shelley. The Romantic notion of a suffering artist is total bullshit. Bach wrote 1,000 pieces of music. He wrote them by sitting down and working every day. I don't give a fig about Rimbaud's short and chaotic life. Anyone can live that way; it's not a creative act to get fucked up and die. 
13.  Is a certain amount of suffering good for a writer?  

SB. A great deal of humility is good for anyone. Suffering does not necessarily create anything useful; sometimes it's just pain. See above comments about the Romantic suffering artist myth. I'd rather be happy than suffer for my art. Though I'd rather be good than happy; happiness is not the ultimate goal, despite what jerks like Aristotle tell us.

14. Have you attended creative writing workshops and if you have share your experiences a bit please.
SB. No. I have no interest, either. They seem to be mostly ways to make money off of novice writers. I continue to display my cynicism.

15.  Not long ago I was sent several very hostile messages from Irish writers demanding to know why I had posted on the works of other writers and not them.  Some suggested I had been influenced  by some sort of shadowy group to ignore their work. I was informed there is a small elite group who decides who gets reviewed, published or receives grants and it was also  suggested they had sent me negative feedback on writers I should ignore. What is mentally behind this?  Is there anything like a Literary Mafia within your area?

SB. have no idea. I am pretty much completely disconnected to the literary scene in Seattle. I only know a couple of other local novelists, one of whom--a guy named Jonathan Evison--is very successful and does a lot of work to promote and help out other writers.

Quick Pick Questions

A.  tablets or laptops or smart phones?

Pen and paper. I have a cell phone, but I keep it mostly shut off.

B.  E readers or traditional books?

A book is made of bound, printed paper.

C.  American Fast Food- love it, hate it, or once and a while?

Mostly hate it. Though I had a cheeseburger for lunch today. Go figure.

D.  Cats or dogs?

I was raised with dogs, but have lived with cats as an adult. I now prefer cats.

E.  best city to inspire a writer- Paris, London, Dublin, or? 

F.  Walt Whitman or Willam Butler Yeats?   

G.  Roberto Bolano or Gabriel Garcia Marquez ?
Have to be GGM; I've never read any Bolano

K.  Winter or Summer? Day or Night?
Winter, winter at night, very late

I.  Would you rather witness opening night for Waiting for Godot, King Lear, Playboy of the Western World or Ubu Roi?

Ubu Roi! We're seeing Lear in a couple of weeks, and Godot in a couple of months. We just saw "The Importance of Being Ernest." Seattle has a lively theater scene.

J.  Henry James or Marcel Proust?
James, but barely.

16.  How important is it to you to have readers?  Does it matter. ?

SB. A work isn't really complete until it has a reader. It matters terribly much. I'm not sure why, but it does. Writing is a form of reaching out, sort of, of trying to make contact with something. But I don't know with what.

17.  Reading Paul McVeigh's  response to one of my questions, I thought of a new question I wanted to ask.  I know this is kind of a rambling question, it is designed to draw a similar styled response.

I was reading your answers again.  I think there is one sort of big difference between the reader and the writer.  As you know, true reading is not passive but involves a creative process.

Readers do read within a tradition, seeing works as part of a great conversation, part of a hopefully ever deeper culture, writers see themselves as starting from ground zero, without a conscious relation to a tradition.  Also readers or especially reviewers, I am not a reviewer- I just post stuff- put a limit on a writers work when they talk about it or find meaning in it, thus breaking the writes sense of pure creation.  A writer might well truthfully say, "I just write", but you cannot really just read.

Is there a built in divide between writers and readers?  Is this is what the resistance to interpretation is at least in part about?

SB. There's a divide between readers and writers, sure. Most readers are not writers. Most writers are readers (those who aren't should be drowned far off shore somewhere). I think we all try to interpret, to make sense of the world, all the time, even if it's just to pretend that the world makes sense when it doesn't. Just being awake is a creative act. Every book is read by individuals, all unique. Any book that's the least bit complex will be open to interpretation, to more than one meaning. None of is can act without invoking our history. I have no idea if I'm answering this or not.

18.   You have a book blog, as do I.  Why do you think the vast majority, I see it as near 90 percent, of book bloggers are women ?  What does this say about who reads what?  

SB. Most readers of fiction are women. Women are great. I'm all in favor. My blog used to be focused on writers (most writers of fiction turn out to be women as well; that must be indicative of something?), but now it's mostly focused on reading. I think that I get more men commenting now than I used to. When I had a writing blog, most of the commenters were women. I don't know what that means. I'll bet it has something to do with my annoying online manner, forcing my voice into the baritone range, as it were.

19.  Is the notion that someone is a writer of "Women's" literature just one step above calling their work chic lit?  Statistics show that women read much more fiction then men, why is this so?  Is it patronizing to refer to a work as a great work of literature by a woman, a gay, a person of color as no one ever seems to say War and Peace is a great white men's work?

SB.  The culture wars are still being fought, and nobody has yet worked out what it means to have written a valuable (or even a "good") book. As always, a lot of this discussion is political. Surely white men of European origin have not written all the most important works of literature, but just as surely, white men of European origin are widely considered to have done. It's as if art is a zero-sum game, and there's only so much canonical space available. To give room to a woman might mean some man will lose his place. Who will that be? How can we stop this horrible thing, etc? It can't be good for the general culture of literature for some aspects of human experience to be declared unimportant by fiat, especially when we're talking about the experiences of over half the population of the planet. Not that all women lead the same life, of course, and part of the problem with these discussions is that everyone gets reduced to an abstraction based on gender or race. Let's just say that Clarissa Dalloway is as important a literary character as is Ishmael. 

20.   It was recently revealed in the press that the philosopher Martin Heidigger was viciously anti-Semetic. If you found out that a favorite writer of yours was grossly bigitoted would you lose interest in them?

SB. No. I run into objectionable things all the time. An artist, if he's any good, is better than (or at least more than) his prejudices. I adore John Ruskin's writing, despite his occasional insane anti-Catholic rants. Every human has character flaws, some grievous and terrible. That does not poison everything every human touches. We must take the art and leave the artist alone, refusing the temptation to take a moral inventory of every novelist before reading the novels. Just read the damned books.


My great thanks to Scott Bailey for taking the time to provide us with such interesting and insightful responses.  I hope to read much more of his work.

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