‘Tis the electoral season, but this site is not about politics.
That’s not to say I am not deeply interested in politics. I am.
My undergraduate degree is in political science and history, and I started interning in politics at the tender age of 16 – and have worked in all branches of government at the state and federal level in the US since the politics bug bit me long ago.
I’ve lived abroad for many years, and studying about politics in my adoptive countries and learning the language by following (and discussing) political news has always been fun for me.
All this introduction to say that I do indeed have some clue about politics.
But I have never found it my job to inform someone else how he or she should think politically or how to vote, and I find it deeply offensive when others do so to me.
I realize mine is becoming an increasingly rare view, but I’m surprised to see novelists joining the bandwagon and following the path of actors and comedians in lecturing us on what we should think about politics.
That is not to say that authors – just like the rest of humanity – are not entitled to their political opinions. They clearly are.
But the fact that I may read their books, in no way gives authors the right to feel that I somehow “owe” them, and, therefore, they are in a position to influence my vote or political opinions.
I was shocked this summer to read a tweet by an author of beach read novels. I will not name names, but to be clear, these are fun but in no way intellectually-challenging books. Admit it, you know the kind of book you pick up when you want some light reading between summer dips in the sea, but aren’t necessarily looking to challenge the brain.
This novelist tweeted that she didn’t understand why readers who read and enjoy her novels would not also feel compelled to support her preferred presidential candidate. Shouldn’t we take our political cues from her and actors whose films we watch who also profess admiration for Candidate X?
Were she a 19-year-old novelist, I may have been more forgiving of this arrogance, but this author was old enough to know better.
As gratitude goes, I have somewhat enjoyed her lightweight books. My sense of gratitude for said author, however, would rank far below the gratitude I feel for my doctors, my dentist, my hairdresser, my car mechanic, my plumber and the barista who always makes me a perfect cappuccino.
I greatly appreciate their work and the tangible impact all these individuals have on my life.
Nevertheless, does that mean these (greatly appreciated) individuals should have the right to dictate to me how I vote?
Can I imagine my dentist ending an appointment by saying “Haven’t I filled your cavity well? Well, then clearly you should vote for Candidate X, since I support him.” I think it’s fair to say most of us would be horrified by this overreach and would most likely be initiating a search for a new dentist.
From my side, I will not be looking to beach read (or – dare I say it? – even literary fiction) authors to provide me with voting instructions.
Thanking novelists for all the enjoyment they provide me, for the stories and characters they have created that continue to live on in my head long after I’ve read the last page, for the worlds they allow me to inhabit, for the thoughts and feelings and emotions they evoke. I truly appreciate your novels, your imagination, your talent, and your craft.
Beyond that, however, think it’s only fair to point out – I’ve got this.
No instructions required.