Affective Response

I don’t believe a particular author can be an “acquired taste.” You either love the author’s work from the first page or you never do. For me, some of these loved writers (among novelists) are Nikos Kazantzakis, Philip Roth, Toni Morrison, Jane Austen, JD Salinger, Saul Bellow, Dostoyevsky, Joyce, Hawthorne, Faulkner, Cormac McCarthy, and Iris Murdock.

It’s also not what they write about that matters, but rather the style. We either respond at an affective level to a particular style or we don’t. The work must resonate, and we cannot be “talked into” loving a writer that we don’t emotionally respond to.

Among playwrights, I would list Shakespeare, Ibsen, Chekhov, Tennessee Williams, and Eugene O’Neill. Among poets, Dante, TS Eliot, Sylvia Plath . . .

One’s political views are also deeply affective. We respond emotionally to particular politicians or leaders, often loving or hating particular people, and it is nearly impossible to convince someone through rational argument to change these feelings. I feel a gut-level revulsion for Trump, for example, and a great admiration for Obama. I don’t have particularly strong feelings for or against Joe Biden or for either of the Bushes, Reagan, or Clinton; they are just rather boring. I feel indifferent towards them. And it’s not primarily at the level of policy that I respond. It’s about style, attitude, or personality. People who are still devoted to Trump just love his style/attitude.

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