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Kolinahr

Author Agenda--distracting or no?

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I was recently re-reading a couple of authors whom I enjoyed a great deal when I was younger. One in particular really pushed some underlying themes I was able to blithely remain ignorant of as a child, but which have now become painfully obvious to me as an adult reader. I won't name names because I'd rather not focus on any one author or theme in particular, but I was wondering to what extent the rest of you feel comfortable navigating author agenda. If an author is in favour of a particular philosophy or life-view, or seems to want to inspire certain action in the reader that you disagree with, are you able to largely ignore this if the writing is enthralling enough? Or does the issue ultimately become too distracting? If so, which books did this happen with?

Edited by Kolinahr

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I despise it. I read a book called The Shack once by... someone. Paul something I think. It was a big religious push that allegedly changed lives, and at the end referenced the Missy Project (Missy being the little girl gone missing presumed dead by a grieving father in the story), which involves the reader buying multiple copies of The Shack and distributing them.

 

Get. Out.

 

I have also yet to re-read A Wrinkle In Time, but I've heard that's got quite religious undertones that definitely went over my head as a kid. Not sure if it had any actual agenda, though.

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I despise it. I read a book called The Shack once by... someone. Paul something I think. It was a big religious push that allegedly changed lives, and at the end referenced the Missy Project (Missy being the little girl gone missing presumed dead by a grieving father in the story), which involves the reader buying multiple copies of The Shack and distributing them.

 

Get. Out.

 

I have also yet to re-read A Wrinkle In Time, but I've heard that's got quite religious undertones that definitely went over my head as a kid. Not sure if it had any actual agenda, though.

 

Ah, yes, The Shack. Never actually read it but heard a lot about it and had someone gift me a copy to read, too. Claimed it was so amazing, but I was very wary of the look of it. Seemed to have 'preach' written all over it in invisible ink, and didn't seem to have much of a story besides. 

 

I did read A Wrinkle in Time and enjoyed it. I don't remember it having any religious themes. I mostly recall fun diagrams of a tesseract and some fairly convincing dimensional travel, but it's been a while, so who knows.

 

I actually don't mind religious themes in novels at all, but what bothers me is when it's coded. Either tell me what you mean or don't include it because being ambushed feels very sneaky and underhanded and makes me angry. Proponents of racist themes in particular do this a lot, like the writers are hoping that if you just whisper bigotry enough people will simply absorb it--unfortunately true historically in the case of a good deal of propaganda (and well, presently, too, to be honest). So the worst thing is that you can't say the technique doesn't work, which gives the writers a good reason to continuing doing it, and makes it all the more upsetting. 

Edited by Kolinahr

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I suppose like a lot of people, if the theme is something you agree with, you're going to like the book, if it's something you vehemently disagree with, then you're not. Either way I prefer to have whatever theme gently and subtly introduced to me, rather than rammed down my throat, even if it is something I generally agree with. 

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I suppose like a lot of people, if the theme is something you agree with, you're going to like the book, if it's something you vehemently disagree with, then you're not. Either way I prefer to have whatever theme gently and subtly introduced to me, rather than rammed down my throat, even if it is something I generally agree with. 

 

Hmm, yes, I suppose you're right about that, though I was thinking more about intrusive themes, something you weren't expecting from the genre. The Shack, previously mentioned, would be pretty well guaranteed by reputation to contain such a message, and is more easily avoided than something that sneaks up on you. For example, a number of years ago I was enjoying reading The Sword of Truth fantasy series. The first few books were great, but little by little they transformed into philosophical platforms, until eventually this became the primary function of the series. I love exploring new ideas in writing, but in this case I feel I was lured somewhere I didn't necessarily want to go. Not to mention that if I recall correctly, the philosophy in question was Ayn Rand's hateful Objectivism, come back to haunt me again. 

Edited by Kolinahr

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I have also yet to re-read A Wrinkle In Time, but I've heard that's got quite religious undertones that definitely went over my head as a kid. Not sure if it had any actual agenda, though.

 

I know this book frequently appears on banned lists (or did many years ago), but I read it several times when I was a young child and I don't recall anything 'subversive' about it. I just remember being really into the story, so whatever it was also went over my head. :lol:  :dunno: Would be interesting to read it as an adult, and one of my local libraries has a copy so if I remember, I'll pick it up next time I'm in there.

 

Michael Crichton was pushing his environmental agenda rather heavily in one of his books (I think it may have been State of Fear), and I found that off-putting. From what I recall, the preachiness actually took over the story which is a big no-no.

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Michael Crichton was pushing his environmental agenda rather heavily in one of his books (I think it may have been State of Fear), and I found that off-putting. From what I recall, the preachiness actually took over the story which is a big no-no.

 

I just read Michael Crichton's Jurassic Park and The Lost World for the first time a couple of weeks ago and really enjoyed them both. JP in particular I thought was a fantastic Frankenstein story. That said, these are the only Crichton novels I've read, and I can't comment on anything else. I did love that these stories had messages to deliver vis a vis scientific morality (really, a story with no message at all can be disappointing), but I definitely agree that when a message dominates the story completely, it can dissipate interest and frustrate the reader (obviously, since I started this thread...), and even a solid novelist is not immune to this failing. Honestly, an established, popular writer is often able to get away with a good deal more self-indulgence than an emerging artist. 

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I enjoyed JP too, Timeline is also good fun, not particularly literary but a good escapist read.

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Yes I agree that can be distracting and irritating.  I read a book by a left wing comedian- Marcus somebody- and I couldn't finish it because it was just very political and forever bashing the politicians he didn't like. I also don't like book themes that are Christian allegories.  One I read recently was GK Chesterton's The Man Who Was Thursday. This started off so well and was really funny but I didn't like the  preachy message in the ending. 

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I find it can be distracting and annoying too, it depends how it's done. I don't mind good morals in a children's story, but if a book is heavily pushing a certain religion religion or political standpoint or such, that would annoy me a lot.

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Yes I agree that can be distracting and irritating.  I read a book by a left wing comedian- Marcus somebody- and I couldn't finish it because it was just very political and forever bashing the politicians he didn't like. I also don't like book themes that are Christian allegories.  One I read recently was GK Chesterton's The Man Who Was Thursday. This started off so well and was really funny but I didn't like the  preachy message in the ending. 

 

This reminds me of the Russian novels I was discussing a couple of weeks ago. A lot of them have heavy political messages that have been diluted by the passage of time. Some people complain it makes the books nonsensical, but I wonder if it might not make them a lot more tolerable, as well.

Edited by Kolinahr

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It all comes down to good writing, doesn't it? If an author is good enough, they will be able to allude to their particular viewpoint, without it being overt. I going to deliberately ignore allegorical books like CS Lewis Narnia books - I assume most people would know about those beforehand.

 

It gets intolerable, for me at least, when the author's own views start poking through the narrative of the story and interferes with the enjoyment of reading it. Two books immediately come to mind - Breathless by Dean Koontz, which got far too preachy about evolution vs  creationism and to my mind, stopped being a work of fiction, and Tom Clancy's books, which for me, just got really tiresome, pushing the same, tired political agenda.

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 I going to deliberately ignore allegorical books like CS Lewis Narnia books - I assume most people would know about those beforehand.

 

 

 

I have to disagree with that, if only because these are children's books and most kids don't have the framework in place to see the allegory. I loved Lewis's writing as a child and a young adult, but recently ended up watching Prince Caspian with some Arab people, and it was truly a terrible experience. Because they didn't have any background on the books or movies, they didn't seem aware they were being insulted every ten seconds, but Hollywood definitely made sure to cast ethnically this time (funny how they can manage to do that when putting people in a negative light, but when someone complains about a white-washed lead, suddenly there just "aren't enough ethnic actors") and I really wanted to just bury my head in the sand in mortification because all of the messages about race and religion were embarrassingly heavy handed. And don't even get me started on The Horse and His Boy... 

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