Miles Coverdale (manos74) wrote,
Miles Coverdale

The events of a writer's life, particularly (especially?) the private events, have a strong influence on that writer's writing. This is something everyone can agree on.

Now: Where does a reader draw the line? In other words, when do the private events of a writer's life stop being valid context for the writer's work, and when do they start becoming the ax for a reader to grind for an iconoclastic hatchet-job? (I think I might have to work on that metaphor a bit, but you get my drift.)

Let us consider, for an example, Ted Hughes.

Mr. Hughes' work itself was highly acclaimed by critics for its mystical, shamanic view of the world. Hughes himself was named the Poet Laureate of England in 1984. Obviously, this is a writer with some talent--not quite as good as William Blake, to be sure, but a Blake-ian apprentice, certainly.

However, I guarantee you will not find one self-respecting university English department that would touch him, or his work, with a ten-foot pole. And this is because conventional wisdom has it that Ted Hughes was responsible for the suicide of Sylvia Plath. (Of course it was Hughes' fault--the fact that Plath was, and let's be charitable here, fucking batshit insane had absolutely nothing to do with it, nope, not at all. In the academic feminist worldview, a heterosexual man involved in the arts is, at absolute best, one small step above a child molester.)

I'm not saying Hughes was a perfect man. I am saying that there might be better filters for a canon than how much of a bastard some writer was when he got up from his writing table.
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