Books and Boycotts

There’s little else I want to do during cold weather than make soup, and curl up in my heated throw and read. I recently finished The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society (loved it!), and just downloaded another Catherine Ryan Hyde book, When You Were Older that I hope to start today.

I know some of you have very firm opinions about how you prefer to read. I used to fight the digital format, purist that I was, but I now go either way. Digital or bound, doesn’t make much difference to me, unless I know I’ll want to make notes in the margins, then I prefer the bound kind. I just bought a used copy of Old Friend from Far Away: The Practice of Writing Memoir by Natalie Goldberg because I know I will dog ear and highlight the bejeebers out of it. If you’re interested in the writing process or you love poetry or you are curious about Zen meditation, Natalie Goldberg has written it. If you love Anne Lamott (and who doesn’t?), I think you’ll like Natalie, too.

Getting back to Catherine Ryan Hyde, I first heard of her after reading Christina Baker Kline’s incredible book, Orphan Train. While sometimes Amazon and other book sellers get it wrong with recommendations, they got it right when one of Hyde’s books came up as a suggestion. Walk Me Home is my favorite so far, followed closely by Worthy, Say Goodbye for Now, and When I Found You.

Just like fashion, I’m hardly ever up on the literary latest and greatest. I’m usually a good 3 to 200 years behind. It’s why I didn’t realize that A) there was an actual book called Pay It Forward, published in 2000. I thought it was simply a good idea and something a lot of people do; B) that it was written by Hyde; and C) that it was a made into a movie shortly after publication.

In a rare move, I decided to watch the movie before reading the book. Usually I do the opposite. The movie was available to rent online, and in the small promo picture on the TV screen I saw Helen Hunt next to someone who looked like Kevin James. The problem is that it wasn’t Kevin James. It was Kevin Spacey, someone who’s work I’ve long admired, but in light of sexual assault allegations against him, I’d decided to boycott. I realized my mistake five minutes in during Spacey’s first scene. After a few choice expletives, I thought, ‘Do I stop watching or do I keep going?’

I chose to keep watching, but I couldn’t escape the allegations. How could such a gifted person behave like such a douchebag?

Like many of you, I’ve been asking that question way too often lately.  After listening to Al Franken’s farewell to the Senate, I read that Mario Batali, too, had been accused of sexual misconduct. So I asked my Facebook friends if they, too, were tired of all the allegations. An interesting conversation ensued. My daughter wrote, “I’m struggling with all this. There are actors and comedians and singer and artists whose work I truly enjoy, but who are also total assholes in real life. Right now I’m boycotting these people, but there will come a time when I will want to enjoy their work again, and I’ll have to figure out how to deal with that.” My sister wrote, “Maybe after they’re dead we can enjoy their work? Kind of like Picasso. I always have to separate the man from his work and that is often very difficult to do.” That reminded me of why I struggle with listening to Miles Davis. He physically and psychologically abused his wife, Cicely Tyson, on numerous occasions. Not cool.

I think this is something many of us struggle with, so I put the question to you: Has the myriad sexual misconduct/assault accusations waged against actors, writers, and others in the entertainment business affected what you read or watch? Please leave a comment.

Also, feel free to recommend a book or two! What are you reading, and in what format?

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5 thoughts on “Books and Boycotts

  1. I have to admit, I am choosing not to watch any Kevin Spacey work, nor Louis C.K. I wish there were a way to separate the person from the work, but there is a definite creep factor that makes it difficult. I have had interesting conversations with my younger kids (daughter is 21 & son is 24) about their thoughts on all the allegations, and the only conclusion we came to was “it’s SO complicated”. For now, I’m trying to follow my gut – if it feels creepy, don’t watch/read/listen to it.

    As for reading recommendations, I just finished Sing, Unburied, Sing, by Jesmyn Ward. It was a thought-provoking read that I’m still ruminating over. Also, after reading your poetry post, I thought to suggest Chris Forhan, if you haven’t already heard of him. I like his poetry and also very much enjoyed his memoir “My Father Before Me”.

    • Thank you for reading my blog again! I also appreciate your Spacey feedback. Louis C.K. is another I am staying away from, too. It IS so complicated, and the conversation is really only just beginning. Thanks for the reading recommendations. I will look for Chris Forhan’s work. Reading poetry is like a mini mindfulness moment for me, and not just the Rumi-type poetry (although I love Rumi).

  2. Although I have written (some really awful, some fairly good) poetry practically since I could write, I confess to not reading nearly enough of it. I think because I find it hard to read it lightly. I need to set aside a block of time to read, think and digest. I appreciate your recommendation of the Billy Collins book – I will grab a copy of that for sure!

  3. I can’t say it has affected what I’m watching yet or not because I don’t watch many movies. I found this question intriguing. My gut says that I probably wouldn’t watch the movie because it would be too hard to stomach. The beauty of a movie is that we are transported away from our everyday lives and believe these actors are x, y, and z. And all I would now see is “Grrrrr….Kevin Spacey.” And my stomach would lurch. I respect anyone’s decision either way. Where I struggle is how we move forward. Why is Johnny Depp still being cast? Mel Gibson? Those are movies I consciously won’t spend money on, and I’m puzzled by how quickly Hollywood forgets.

    On to my latest good books…my latest reads that have inspired me are “The Untethered Soul: The Journey Beyond Yourself,” “Braving the Wilderness: The Quest for True Belonging and The Courage to Stand Alone,” and “Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear.”

    • Hi, Melissa. It’s not haha funny, but funny how domestic violence hasn’t had the same impact in Hollywood (or in music or even in general) as sexual assault/harassment has. How the entertainment business moves forward will be interesting. $$ still speaks volumes and I’m afraid this will all be brushed aside once again.

      As for your books, clearly you’re doing some emotional house cleaning! Go, you!

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