Can we love the work of controversial artists but dislike the artist? This is a great subject and is highly subjective. In an age of militant cancel-culture it is very topical. Dederer’s Monsters “A Fans Dilemna” and is chatty, lively and informative and posits "what if criticism involves trusting our feelings — not just about the crime, which we deplore, but about the work we love".
Her argument on Nabokov’s Lolita is a masterful analysis of the grittiest conflict points. The chapter is called the Anti Monster, do we judge or conflate an artist with their subject matter. Nabokov has written an exquisite portrait of a pedophile, should you read it or revile it and then what? Do we love a monster in art? Does evil fascinate us because we are in the main good. This work is celebrated and defended for its genius. Could Lolita be written today? What if Nabokov had poured his talent into the victims POV. Would we rush to read 13 years old Lolita's unspeakable victim’s account or is that reality too harrowing. All interesting questions.
Censorship is as curly as arguing about the degree to which life and art can or should be separated. Dederer’s concept of “the stain” that ultimately remains is like saying you can’t unhear some things. This book will provoke lively debate and I would recommend it for anyone interested in ideas, feminism art and censorship.
BBC RADIO 4 BOOK OF THE WEEK
'Funny, lively and convivial... how rare and nourishing this sort of roaming thought is and what a joy to read' MEGAN NOLAN, SUNDAY TIMES
'An exhilarating, shape-shifting exploration of the perilous boundaries between art and life' JENNY OFFILL
A passionate, provocative and blisteringly smart interrogation of how we experience art in the age of #MeToo, and whether we can separate an artist's work from their biography.
What do we do with the art of monstrous men? Can we love the work of Roman Polanski and Michael Jackson, Hemingway and Picasso? Should we love it? Does genius deserve special dispensation? What makes women artists monstrous? And what should we do with beauty, and with our unruly feelings about it?
Claire Dederer explores these questions and our relationships with the artists whose behaviour disrupts our ability to understand the work on its own terms. She interrogates her own responses and behaviour, and she pushes the fan, and the reader, to do the same. Morally wise, deeply considered and sharply written, Monsters gets to the heart of one of our most pressing conversations.
'A blisteringly erudite and entertaining read . . . It's a book that deserves to be widely read and will provoke many conversations' NATHAN FILER
'Wise and bold and full of the kind of gravitas that might even rub off' LISA TADDEO
'An incredible book, the best work of criticism I have read in a very long time' NICK HORNBY