I have stumbled upon a writer so at odds with my morals that I have thought of whether to kill them or not.
To be clear, I do not mean actually kill them. Instead, I think about practicing what is known as “Death of the Author,” in which many socially-conscious readers partake.
The simplest definition of Death of the Author is the act of erasing some form of the author from their work. This can range from ignoring a hated author who wrote your favorite book to destroying all traces of that author and their creation in your purview. However, these actions, while understandable, are short-sighted—seeking to heal a bullet hole with a bandaid.
The first method of Death of the Author—ignoring an author—calls for a naive delusion. For example, this form of Death would recommend that when reading Harry Potter you would then block from your mind the bigotry of its author, J. K. Rowling.
Yet, one cannot so easily separate an author from their work. J. K. Rowling’s bigotry, and all author’s bigotry, will inevitably end up in their work. Even though you rightly wish to read Harry Potter without dealing with the stomach-turning bigotry, you must confront it. Just because you have exiled J. K. Rowling from their book does not mean that the hook-nosed goblins, servile elves, and pedophiliac werewolves suddenly disappear.
What’s more, by ignoring the bigotry, you propagate it. By lie of omission, you have judged Harry Potter to be without fault. Instead of killing the author, you end up turning a blind eye to bigotry.
At the other extreme, a method like destroying an author and their works from sight is something that I myself practiced once. After reading John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars, I became disturbed by the romance inspired by Anne Frank and made the horrible mistake of looking up the author.
Thus, I ended up murdering John Green by throwing out all his books and vowing to stop watching his YouTube channel because it turned out that he thought that Anne Frank, who was murdered by Nazis, died of “illness like most people.”
However, murder, while therapeutic in some cases, like this instance with John Green, is not a good long term solution. As much as I loved ‘canceling’ an author from my life, neither I nor society can do this for every single hated author.
If one were to cancel every single bigoted author, we would lose just about every great literary work. It is a tough pill to swallow that your favorite author is a bigot, but you have to be an adult and take your medicine.
While those two methods of killing the author do not work, there is hope. Instead of living in a fantasy world where Harry Potter spontaneously exists, we must accept that its author is a bigot and that the book reflects that bigotry as well.
But while we should accept these facts, we must also confront the bigotry found in the book and within the author. And, instead of throwing out every author, we must accept that sometimes the authors, who made our childhoods, are not perfect.
Doing this is much harder than killing an author, but it is the correct thing to do. So next time you are thinking about killing the author, take a step back, realize that that is not productive. Maim them instead.