What does it take to tarnish one's genius?
While reading Stephen Cooper's biography of John Fante (Full of Life), I brought this question up many times.
I had already intuited that Fante's father, Nick, was (to say the absolute least) not the best father in the world. And from a couple of interviews with John's son Dan, it seemed that Fante wasn't always the best of fathers (or husbands) either, but some of the revelations Cooper made in his book were... Well, astounding.
Mainly the case of drowning the litter of kittens while the neighborhood children looked on. That was most disturbing to me.
At the same time, though... The rest of Cooper's bio made me love Fante's work all the more. Despite his emotional hang ups and emotional abuse of his wife and children... The man's life is truly fascinating. And disappointing too.
I find it difficult to NOT like the guy... Partially because Cooper himself is such a big fan of Fante (and it shows through greatly in his biography), but mostly because I too am such a big fan of Fante's work.
So my question is: when, if at all, does an artist's personal life begin to affect your viewpoint of his or her writing?
For me, despite all the revelations in Cooper's biography, I can't look at Fante that much differently than I did before. Similarly, I'll still love Hamsun despite his Nazi support, I'll still love TS Eliot despite anti-semetic overtones in some of his works, and I'll still love Frida Khalo and Diego Rivera despite their Stalinist support... Hell, I'll still enjoy PJ O'Rourke even though he's a right winger!
I suppose that more often than not, if I really enjoy a person's creations... I can seperate their personal and professional lives, assuming they don't get so overtly merged together.
Sooo anyhow... Has Fante's biography ever caused you to question his fiction?
And while I'm at it, what's the availability on these two works (perhaps with a bit of description, if possible):
Prologue to Ask the Dust (I assume this Black Sparrow Press release is different from what is in The Big Hunger)
Bravo, Burro (Fiction piece that I hadn't heard of until Cooper's bio)
Thanks and I hope this generates some good discussion!