Sunday, January 16, 2011

Art is Not a Crime!

Dean Koontz and I might be breaking up after our fifteen or so years together as author and reader. This is probably not entirely shocking, as the things that you like in high school don't always turn out to be the things that you like forever, which is part of the reason why I no longer have a mullet, for example. (I also no longer have a mullet because I no longer have hair. I could try to grow some in, and I might be able to handle the party in the back part, but there is never again going to be business in the front unless it's a lot of short, sparsely placed business.)

Whether or not I've liked Koontz's books for the past ten years or so has been kind of hit or miss based on the book. I no longer get his new ones as soon as they come out, and no longer make sure I get them in hardcover so that they last longer. Despite that, he still has a little over two shelves of one of my bookcases:

dean koontz books

even though he doesn't have quite as much room as Stephen King does. (Stephen King is another one that I've been going back and forth on. Ever since Dreamcatcher I feel like his quality has been all over the map, but I continue to give him a chance. Last year I read two of his books and liked one but not the other, so the verdict is still out.)

What's bothering me about Dean Koontz, more than the unsatisfying conclusions of many of his more recent works, is this link that my friend Jackie shared. If you don't want to click it and then come back, I'll summarize: Dean Koontz is taking all of the money I'm spending on his books and giving it to the Republican party. And not just any Republicans; he's giving it to the likes of Michelle "Gays Are Targetting Our Children" Bachman and Christine "I'm Not a Witch" O'Donnell. These are not people that I want to give money to. If they were, I would do it myself.

It makes me not want to give Dean Koontz any money any more, but then I'm not sure if I'm being fair if I take a stance like that. At the end of Art School Confidential, where I took the title of this entry from, one of the characters asks if we should judge an artist by their personal political beliefs. It's a question I also considered last year when I read that Dorothy Parker biography last year, as Parker had trouble throughout her life because of her onetime support of the Communist Party.

I had no trouble boycotting Target for supporting anti-gay candidates and sending them letters about it, but Target is a company and Dean Koontz is a person. (And, actually, I did have trouble boycotting Target, because I like a lot of their stuff.) People have the right to support whomever they want, but does that mean I have to let them do it with money that I give them? And what does that say about my feelings about art itself? I can boycott Target's products because I don't like the company's actions, but if I boycott an author for the same reason am I saying that their work is also a product? Or is art in a different category? Once created, does a book (or painting, or photograph, etc.) stand alone on its own merits, or does it always remain an extension of the author?

I thought reviewing some of my other history of politcally motivated boycotts would help. In no particular order:

1) I stopped using e-bay when Meg Whitman, e-bay CEO, campaigned for Mitt Romney. I sent e-bay an email letting them know why I would no longer be using the site, and they responded that Whitman was acting as a private citizen, within her rights. I disagreed, as she was identifying herself as "Meg Whitman, CEO of E-bay", not "Meg Whitman, private citizen and campaign volunteer". Like it or not, she was dragging e-bay into it, and if e-bay was going to pay her salary and then she was going to use that salary to support anti-gay, anti-abortion, abstinence-only Mitt "Dog Torturer" Romney then I wasn't going to give e-bay any more money to pay her with. Oddly, even though I'd been a steady e-bay user and Whitman ended up stepping down, I still use it less than once a year.

2) I was considering buying a DVD copy of Dreamgirls a few years ago when Proposition 8 passed in California and the Hollywood backlash against people who had financially supported it began. When Richard Raddon, the director of the gay-friendly L.A. Film Festival, was revealed to have given $1500 in support of Prop 8, there were calls from the gay community for Raddon to step down. Bill Condon, the writer and director of "Dreamgirls", defended Raddon, saying that the financial support was based on religion, not politics, and that holding his political contributions against him amounted to religious discrimination. I disagreed. Your religion is between you and your church until you take your religion to the ballot box and use your religion as a reason to deny other people civil rights. At that point, it is no longer a matter of religion and is instead of matter of politics. While I wasn't planning to attend the L.A. Film Festival any time in the near future, I did send a letter explaining why I thought Raddon should make amends to the gay community after taking money from them and using it agains them, and I also expressed my disapproval with Condon's view by never buying that copy of "Dreamgirls", because I felt that defending people who work against the community is the same as working against the community yourself.

3) I've never read any of Orson Scott Card's work, even though friends have recommended it, because Card is vocally opposed to gay marriage. He's even accepted an appointment to the board of the National Organization for Marriage, which means that other than his public writing on the subject he is now actively working against gay marriage on a national level. I want nothing to do with him on the basis of that, and won't even pick up his books from the library or at the used bookstore. I like science fiction, and I might be missing out, but I don't want to give him any support whatsoever.

So, where does this leave me with Dean Koontz?

Well, I have demonstrated that I'm willing to view art as a product. In the same way that I stopped supporting e-bay and Target, I stopped supporting Bill Condon and Orson Scott Card. On the other hand, Dean Koontz isn't doing what they're doing. He's not writing editorials, giving comments to newspapers, or going on the morning shows to express his views. He's making political contributions on his own personal time and then going about his business, the same way that I do when I send a check to Lambda Legal. In writing a blog entry about this or posting the original link to the campaign spending on my Facebook, I'm actually doing more than Koontz is. Should people stop supporting me, and stop sending me money? (Actually, could people start sending me money? Because that would be kind of awesome.)

And if I do decide that I should stop purchasing Koontz's books because of this, what's my responsibility to the rest of the authors whose books I buy? Do I need to look them all up before I purchase something? And do I draw the line at books, or do I need to start looking up comic book writers and artists? Or actors? Or screenwriters? Where do I draw the line, and do I have to draw the same one for everybody? I do, after all, shop at WalMart while boycotting Target, on the grounds that WalMart is at least honestly admitting that they will do evil things with my money and not being two faced about it. Stephen King is only giving money to Democrats, according to that link, but I didn't look up anyone else. It seems like a lot of work when there are dozens of authors whose work I faithfully buy without reading reviews or even knowing what the book is about because I like that author.

I guess I need to think about this some more.


Todd said...

I had wondered about your reasoning for continuing to shop at Walmart while boycotting Target; thanks for clearing that up.

Anonymous said...

Art is definitely a product just like anything else.

Liz said...

Orson's name was haunting my mind right up to the point where you snatched him out and placed him in the post where he belongs. I can't fault your logic and it's pretty much my reasoning as well.

The only author who occupies an entire shelf in my collection is Patrick O'Brian, which is why I can hold forth for an hour at a time on 19th century British naval trivia. Useless at parties unless you have a sudden need for a succinct definition of club-hauling or need to step a mizzenmast on the patio. He is dead, which nicely sidesteps the issue of politics-at-one-remove entirely.

Anonymous said...

yes I agree and have boycotted the people and businesses.I try to support small and local stores as so to know who and where there money goes. As for dean I completely understand.I found a used book store that sells his books for one dollar and their proceeds go to a charity whom actually is gay friendly,so in some respect he helps the other side . How that for a suggestion? and I get a really cheap book .

Anonymous said...

Its so crazy - I'm having the exact same Koontz crisis. He's been a huge part of my life since I was 12. His books came into my life right when I needed them and helped lift me out of the very dark and gross place I'd fallen into through depression and failed suicide attempts. Then I found out about his donations to the sanctity of marriage organizations. It hurt and it makes me not want to give him any money. But then, why does someone whose work I enjoy have to share all my beliefs? Why am I entitled to my own opinion but he's not entitled to his (however icky I may find it)? Then again, with one notable exception all of his newer stuff is crap anyway. So, in the end I will continue to enjoy his old work and read his new stuff by way of the library so that Michelle Bachmann doesn't profit off my (possible) enjoyment of his work. Let us just enjoy reading, enjoy a good book, without bringing politics into it. They've invaded and destroyed so many other parts of out lives, I'm not going to let them take my enjoyment of reading too.