I don’t know about you guys but I have a handful of authors that I love unconditionally. Yes, that’s right. I love them beyond, despite, because. Rationally and irrationally. I’d buy one their books even if it was a technical guide to taxidermy. Needless to say, this kind of unconditional love is exceedingly rare and requires much more than mere skill, talent or even genius in order to blossom and thrive. Really, authors have to earn that I’ll-forgive-anything feeling about their work and not just because of how brilliant one or two or even a dozen of their books are. For me, it’s a combination of their writing and the subjects that obsess them, their public persona, their ability to surprise, rabble rouse, or consistently awe (this last is the hardest).
There is, of course, no subjective measure for who is worthy of unconditional love. For instance, I’ve read enough Joyce Carol Oates to have developed great respect and admiration for her. But love, much less unconditional love? Uh uhn. On the other hand, Toni Morrison could fill a notebook with crayoned squiggles and I’d add it to my collection. Don DeLillo? Admiration, respect, deep like. Jonathan Franzen? Unconditional love. (I know, I know. Don’t judge.)
This is, of course, a longwinded way of telling you guys about my unconditional love of Jeffrey Eugenides, newly bolstered by this ridiculously charming essay in The Millions. I haven’t read The Marriage Plot yet, but I will because this is an author whose failures I’d probably find more interesting and moving than other authors’ successes. Does that make sense?
In fact, is there a place for unconditional love in literature? Should we allow ourselves to blindly champion an author no matter how flawed, offensive, or just plain lame his/her work becomes? Or should we be driven by our critical faculties and let the work in front of us be the sole basis for affection or dismissal? Do you guys ever love writers unconditionally?