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Politics in your leisure reading
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Maggie AAR
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Joined: 23 Mar 2007
Posts: 2472

PostPosted: Tue Jul 15, 2008 12:42 pm    Post subject: Politics in your leisure reading Reply with quote

I was just reading an excerpt from a new novel and was taken aback that in the first two pages of the novel the author seemed to need to make their political leanings perfectly clear. It felt very much as though I had just struck up a conversation with someone regarding ice cream and was told they never buy a flavor with red in it because they don't want to be thought Republican. Regardless of who I am voting for at the time, I recommend no one get between me and anything with strawberry flavoring!

Anyway, it just felt jarring and oddly betraying, like I had picked up something that actually hit me. I feel this way regardless of which way the author leans -- republican rants and democratic rants are all one and the same to me. I just don't feel that is what I want in my leisure reading.
And when I am interested in that subject, I head towards nonfiction.

I wouldn't even mention it but this is about the dozenth time this week that it has happened and the week isn't even that old yet! Am I just getting very unlucky or are others noting this tone in their leisure activities?

maggie b.
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Allyson



Joined: 23 Mar 2007
Posts: 567

PostPosted: Tue Jul 15, 2008 1:36 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Do you mean political like specifically American politics of the Democrat vs. Republican variety? Or opinions on social issues that have definite political overtones like abortion or the death penalty? The first, I haven't really encountered very much, if at all, but the second I see all the time. I think if I ran into the first, I'd be for one, alienated--I'm not American and while I know about their politics, it would feel like I wasn't the intended audience for the book.

As to the second, it really depends. For one thing, something that someone might consider political, another might not. Villainizing a woman who had an abortion, for instance, to people who agree that abortion is wrong, probably won't come across as as noticable as to pro-choice people. And I know that authors who have written gay characters have been accused of politicizing their books. Particularly if they villainize, say, homophobia or homophobic characters. It's still so polarizing. Whereas something like racism is now in my opinion considered bad enough that villainizing racist characters is just expected--but I bet 40 years ago the same thing would have been seen as very political.
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Elaine S



Joined: 02 Apr 2007
Posts: 667
Location: Rural England

PostPosted: Tue Jul 15, 2008 3:42 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Unfinished Business by Karyn Langhorne was one of the most exciting books I read last year and it had a B/W H/H, gay characters, Democrats, Republicans, an outspoken feminist anti-war heroine and a disabled, former serving officer turned senator hero. Everything divisive you can put a name to but a story that showed that ultimately, what makes us different is only what really makes us all the same: caring human beings full of compassion even with different points of view. I thought it was one of the best romances I have read and I cared deeply about both the H/H and strong political POVs only added spice to the whole thing.
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RichMissTallant



Joined: 06 Jun 2008
Posts: 148
Location: Washington, DC

PostPosted: Tue Jul 15, 2008 10:24 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

To the OP, do you think it's really the political leanings of the author herself or views she wants the characters to embody? I trust that you can make a fair judgment yourself, but there have been times when I've felt like a character's views and an author's views are definitely not the same.

That being said, I've come across a couple of novels where I've felt vaguely uncomfortable with the political undertones. It happens a lot in books that try to deal with a theme of national security, the military-type books. Often the book is older than the conflict it makes me think of, so my worries are perhaps unfounded, but as a reader, I just can't help a certain feeling I get from a story. I think it stems from being so outspoken about my political beliefs in real life. I know when people IRL make me edgy, so if I feel like a character I'm supposed to like embodies those views, I automatically dislike them... even if it's the hero or heroine. Confused
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ladynaava



Joined: 11 Apr 2007
Posts: 938
Location: California

PostPosted: Tue Jul 15, 2008 11:43 pm    Post subject: Re: Politics in your leisure reading Reply with quote

I don't care for politics in my novels, especailly if they are black and white, or sterotypical.

Evil Republicans. Saintly democrats or vice versa. I want depth not stereotypes.

I also loathe when a character becomes a sue for an authors soapbox issue. It can be the greatest issue in the world from world peace, to eating more veggies, if I sense I'm being preached I am annoyed.

Of annoyance are the casual political slams uttered by a character which have no relevance to the story and are clearly the authors political opinons. Especially when they are out of the blue. Sort of like: "By the way, here is how I the author feel about issue x."
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Kass



Joined: 23 Mar 2007
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PostPosted: Wed Jul 16, 2008 1:51 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I don't mind generic politics as a background. Nor do I mind books like JAK's The Golden Chance that shows people as nuanced and willing to debate politics. I do mind books that use politics to slam me and what I think is important, though.
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Schola



Joined: 10 Jun 2007
Posts: 1867

PostPosted: Wed Jul 16, 2008 2:07 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

+JMJ+

Since I'm not an American, I can read a Contemporary which references Republican/Democrat issues with as much detachment as I read a Historical with Tory/Whig conflicts.

However, I do feel very passionately about the politics in my own sphere. If the hero or heroine were someone I'd barely tolerate at a mixed dinner party and would avoid in real life, then I'd have the expected negative reaction to him or her. If it seemed that said character reflected the author's views, I'd probably avoid the author's books in the future as well. Confused

Now that I give it more thought, it seems that I consider Marie Antoinette to be in my own sphere. Razz As unfair as this may be, if I am reading a Historical set in France which demonises her and heaps effusive praise over the revolutionists who ushered in the Reign of Terror, then I automatically mistrust everything else the author may have to say. I assume her research was not thorough and that the novel is a thinly-veiled excuse to trumpet her politics. Confused
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Beth W



Joined: 22 Mar 2007
Posts: 168

PostPosted: Wed Jul 16, 2008 6:51 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Allyson wrote:
Do you mean political like specifically American politics of the Democrat vs. Republican variety? Or opinions on social issues that have definite political overtones like abortion or the death penalty? The first, I haven't really encountered very much, if at all, but the second I see all the time. I think if I ran into the first, I'd be for one, alienated--I'm not American and while I know about their politics, it would feel like I wasn't the intended audience for the book.



I haven't seen the first much either. The second is much more common, and is one of the reasons I stopped reading Suzanne Brockmann. Either one totally bugs me - whether or not I agree with the perspective of the author. In fact, that's a reason I don't read a lot of Christian romance, though I am a strong Christian - a lot of that genre (at least what I have read) gets preachy, and often politically/socially as well as spiritually. I deal with politics and social issues on a daily basis in my job and in my life - I REALLY don't want to read about them in my leisure time, I just want to escape.
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Maggie AAR
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Joined: 23 Mar 2007
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PostPosted: Wed Jul 16, 2008 7:52 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Beth W wrote:


I haven't seen the first much either. The second is much more common, and is one of the reasons I stopped reading Suzanne Brockmann. Either one totally bugs me - whether or not I agree with the perspective of the author. In fact, that's a reason I don't read a lot of Christian romance, though I am a strong Christian - a lot of that genre (at least what I have read) gets preachy, and often politically/socially as well as spiritually. I deal with politics and social issues on a daily basis in my job and in my life - I REALLY don't want to read about them in my leisure time, I just want to escape.


I feel much the same way. Much of Christian romance is so clearly a sermon thinly disguised as a novel that I can't pick them up.

maggie b.
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Maggie AAR
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Joined: 23 Mar 2007
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PostPosted: Wed Jul 16, 2008 7:54 am    Post subject: Re: Politics in your leisure reading Reply with quote

ladynaava wrote:
I don't care for politics in my novels, especailly if they are black and white, or sterotypical.

Evil Republicans. Saintly democrats or vice versa. I want depth not stereotypes.

I also loathe when a character becomes a sue for an authors soapbox issue. It can be the greatest issue in the world from world peace, to eating more veggies, if I sense I'm being preached I am annoyed.

Of annoyance are the casual political slams uttered by a character which have no relevance to the story and are clearly the authors political opinons. Especially when they are out of the blue. Sort of like: "By the way, here is how I the author feel about issue x."


These are exactly my views, only you were so much more eloquent and succinct.

maggie b.
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desiderata



Joined: 23 Oct 2007
Posts: 226

PostPosted: Thu Jul 17, 2008 2:46 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

The preachy tone is a definite deal breaker for me, as well. I can't/won't continue with a novel once that happens. As for politics as background ... I find politics in real life to be a very disenchanting area. I don't admire most of the people involved, of either party, I'm disillusioned by the cynisism displayed, and so on and so on. It's about as unromantic a background as I can imagine. For that reason I haven't been interested enough to read any novels which feature politics as a plot device, etc.
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MrsFairfax



Joined: 27 Mar 2007
Posts: 1069

PostPosted: Thu Jul 17, 2008 8:10 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Slightly off topic, but related - One of the things I really appreciate about AAR's discussions is that they rarely, if ever, get political. I was involved for several years in an online book group that I absolutely loved, but eventually it got so political I had to give it up, it was just too annoying to deal with. A question about even books as innocuous as Jasper Fforde's The Big Over Easy: A Nursery Crime would be met with some convoluted political analogy that only served to let everyone else know of the commenter's views about national events, not the book in question. I still actively miss that community, the way it was before the list owners let the politics get out of hand. I know it's frustrating to some who feel strongly to temper their opinions here, but it's wonderful to be able to discuss books and not have to wade through extraneous and divisive opinions about unrelated topics to do it.
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Maggie AAR
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PostPosted: Fri Jul 18, 2008 7:57 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

MrsFairfax wrote:
I know it's frustrating to some who feel strongly to temper their opinions here, but it's wonderful to be able to discuss books and not have to wade through extraneous and divisive opinions about unrelated topics to do it.


Oddly, this is what I want from my romances too -- I want to be able to read the romance and not slug my way through needless commentary on the authors opinion of social justice.. And I do feel AAR does a good job of keeping politics to the Wild Wild West board. I don't think anyone posting here has gotten political -- just said that they've had it with the political. Laughing

maggie b.
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Ellen AAR



Joined: 22 Mar 2007
Posts: 109

PostPosted: Fri Jul 18, 2008 10:20 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Stuart Woods lost me forever as a reader with Two Dollar Bill He'd stop right in the middle of the story for diatribes against conservatives. The diatribes had nothing to do with the story at all, it was just the author venting.

If an author feels that strongly, he ought to write an opinion book not a novel.
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Schola



Joined: 10 Jun 2007
Posts: 1867

PostPosted: Fri Jul 18, 2008 12:12 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Very clueless question from a non-American coming up . . .

This makes me wonder about postwar Western and Frontier Romances (I'm sorry that I can't tell the difference! Embarassed ) which have heroes and/or heroines who support the Confederacy rather than the Union.

During this year's American Idol run, VotefortheWorst.com's nickname for Kristy Lee Cook was "KKKristy" because of a video in which she sings in front of the Confederate flag. They made lots of comments about how it is a racist symbol, etc. From other media, I've gathered that some people jokingly (or maybe seriously?) refer to the war as "The War of Northern Aggression". My impression is that there are strong feelings, both negative and positive, surrounding the Confederate flag.

So . . . if an author chooses to write about characters whose sympathies are with the South rather than with the North (and who, of course, make that clear at some point in the story), is she also making a political statement?
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