Literary Lynching

Why Dorothy Bryant Wrote This Book

Dorothy Bryant wrote:


When I published A Day in San Francisco in 1983, the reaction against it and me was strong, irrational, and long-lived, slowly fading only as the AIDS crisis deepened.


Throughout this emerging tragedy (for me personally as well as for the world), I struggled to keep my balance. One comfort during this struggle was my learning about other serious, truthtelling authors who had been similarly attacked and censored, not by powerful government or religious institutions, but by their own, formerly friendly readership—the literary equivalent of a delusional lynch mob.


I gradually assembled a "support group" of my betters: Ivan Turgenev, Thomas Hardy, Kate Chopin, George Orwell, Hannah Arendt, and William Styron—all wounded (and, in one case, destroyed) by unjustified, concerted attacks, aimed, not simply at countering a book, but at burying it—and its author. The reputations of some of these authors remain dubious even today, especially among people who take pride in never having read the condemned book!


I ended Literary Lynching with a detailed account of my own experience with a "literary lynch mob" attacking A Day in San Francisco—and with no hope that any publisher would invite trouble by printing it.


My completing Literary Lynching coincided with the spread of online publishing. Patricia Holt, former book editor of the San Francisco Chronicle, offered to run it, chapter by chapter, in her online book column, where it remained for several years. Now you can download it from this website.


The issues it raises remain relevant. In fact, today it may be even easier to "shoot the messenger" of unwelcome truths by online attacks. Conscious or unconscious fear of such attacks chills free expression, discourages authors from writing about, or even thinking about, important but risky subjects. Self-censorship destroys free speech by suicide.


Literary Lynching (Free Downloads)

Contents and Description
LitLynching-Contents and Intro.pdf
Adobe Acrobat Document 142.5 KB
Chapter 1: Creator of Terrorists? Ivan Turgenev and Father and Sons
Adobe Acrobat Document 469.3 KB
Chapter 2: Jude the Obscene: Thomas Hardy and Jude the Obscure
Adobe Acrobat Document 451.3 KB
Chapter 3: A Missing Link: Kate Chopin and The Awakening
Adobe Acrobat Document 448.7 KB
Chapter 4: That Quiet, Level Voice: George Orwell and Homage to Catalonia
Adobe Acrobat Document 595.8 KB
Chapter 5: Banality, Justice, and Truth: Hannah Arendt and Eichmann in Jerusalem
Adobe Acrobat Document 733.5 KB
Chapter 6: Literary Jim Crow: William Styron and The Confessions of Nat Turner
Adobe Acrobat Document 768.0 KB
Chapter 7: In Front of Our Noses: Dorothy Bryant and A Day in San Francisco
Adobe Acrobat Document 1.2 MB
Literary Lynching-Conclusion.pdf
Adobe Acrobat Document 104.1 KB