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Acclaimed novelist Anne Tyler criticizes cancel culture, condemns concept of 'appropriation' in writing

'I’m astonished by the appropriation issue,' admitted Tyler. 'It would be very foolish for me to write, let’s say, a novel from the viewpoint of a black man, but I think I should be allowed to do it.'

Acclaimed novelist Anne Tyler criticizes cancel culture, condemns concept of 'appropriation' in writing
AP Photo/Frank Augstein
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Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist and “Breathing Lessons” author Anne Tyler has waded into the culture war to take the controversial position that an author has a right to write from any perspective whatsoever, including from the viewpoints of characters outside of their lived experience. In other words, it should be acceptable for a white woman to write from the perspective of a black man and vice versa.

Tyler, who is infamously reclusive, told the Sunday Times that she did not understand the concept of only being allowed to write about your direct experiences or from the perspective of someone who shares her culture — condemning the concept of appropriation.

In recent years, numerous offers have been canceled, with some even seeing professional repercussions with the withdrawals of their books for writing from perspectives outside their own. In 2020, novelist Jeanine Cummins was condemned for her novel “American Dirt,” which she wrote from the perspective of Mexican migrants — among other authors.

“I’m astonished by the appropriation issue,” admitted Tyler. “It would be very foolish for me to write, let’s say, a novel from the viewpoint of a black man, but I think I should be allowed to do it.”

Tyler also weighed in on cancel culture, slamming efforts to condemn historical writers for their views and alleged actions.

The speculative fiction and fantasy community has more or less erased horror novelist H.P. Lovecraft for his racist views, which many would argue are simply consistent views held by most of his contemporaries.

The World Fantasy Award, which previously used the bust of H.P. Lovecraft as their trophy since its inception in 1975 replaced him with black author Octavia Butler, The Atlantic reported in 2015.

“If an incredibly talented person has written novels in the 1930s or ’40s and all of a sudden it is discovered that there was something he said or did — even something as bad as sexual harassment — he should be condemned for it but I don’t see why you should withdraw his novels from publication,” said Tyler.

Her remarks sparked a firestorm of anger on social media, with many progressives condemning her for being “privileged” and out of touch with the social zeitgeist. In the current cultural landscape, authors will be delisted and cancelled for merely expressing a problematic opinion or political view that does not align with the woke narrative. 

The author touched upon another number of subjects in the lengthy interview, sharing some perspectives on how the rapid advance of technology has necessitated a change in how plots are structured, especially if they are set in contemporary times.

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