The Freedom to Speak: The Naked Husband

Please welcome back Colin Falconer to Write It Forward!

******

The Naked Husband

Available at Barnes and Noble for Nook

Not everyone looks forward to having their book published.

I was reminded of that this week when I read Sherry Jones account of her trials with The Jewel of Medina, a story about one of Mohammed’s wives. IN 2008 her publisher, Random House, allowed themselves to be intimidated by extremist elements in our society and opted out.

Muslim governments overseas have recently attacked that most hard-won of our freedoms; free speech. It has been hard won. My father, like many other men of his generation, risked his life to preserve it. I don’t wish to see Muslims win where Nazis failed.

As Voltaire once said in the French parliament to a political rival; ‘I do not agree with a single thing you say but I will fight to the death for your right to say it.’ That is free speech. It should be a cornerstone of all creative endeavor also.

But in many parts of the world, it’s not. A Tunisian artist, Nadia Jelassi, was recently arrested and her gallery trashed because some of the paintings were considered “un-Islamic.”

So producing creative work is sometimes a matter of setting your shoulders and preparing to be pilloried.

It seems to me that we talk a lot about the importance of creativity in writing, painting, and in sculpture. But earthier qualities are sometimes required also, in equal measure.

Sherry and Nadia had to deal with political and religious censorship. But if we to write honestly, we may have to deal with censorship of another kind.

I have a good friend who has been longing to write a book about her family of origin for many years. She certainly has the talent to do it. But she hasn’t, because she doesn’t want to upset family members, who may recognize themselves in the book.

In fact I strongly doubt the book will ever be written.

When I wrote Naked Husband a number of people tried to persuade me not to publish it. I lost many nights sleep over it. I could understand their point of view; I didn’t want to publish it either. It was all too easy for people to recognize me in the book and I hadn’t painted a very flattering picture, in the interests of honesty.

I had no idea it would be as successful as it was, or that so many others would relate.

Besides, how far can you go in talking about others in a semi autobiographical book?

Through all the doubts – and I still have them – I resolved my argument with one question – could this book be useful to someone? It touches on divorce, adultery and suicide; it’s about marriage and our closest relationships – with our husbands, our wives and our children.

Was I being honest? Yes.

Did I try and blame or denounce anyone, apart from me?

No.

Censorship is clear cut on a political and religious level; less so when we come closer to home. People either bitterly despised or absolutely adored the book. I had crossed the line; I was no longer writing to entertain, I had made it personal.

At one event where I was speaking I had a complete stranger cross the room, and introduce herself so she could tell me that after reading my book she hated my guts. I admired her honesty and her courage. That’s not an easy thing to do..

I would love to be one of those writers like Grisham or Follett who write stuff that everyone loves and are never controversial in themselves. But the book happened, and to take a backward step would be wrong. Anyway, it may not provoke the same visceral reaction this time around. Who knows?

At least I won’t get arrested, like Nadia Jelassi or get death threats like Sherry Jones did. The freedom to speak is a hard won freedom; I didn’t want to sully it by dissembling. I just tried to be as honest as I could; and wherever you are in the world, it’s the most anyone can ask.

About Jen Talty

Publishing Consultant, Author of Romantic Suspense and Co-Creator of Cool Gus Publishing with NY Times Best-Selling Author Bob Mayer.

Posted on October 14, 2012, in Cool Gus Publishing, Guest Blogger and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. Hi Colin, I was struck by one line in particular in your post above:

    “Through all the doubts – and I still have them – I resolved my argument with one question – could this book be useful to someone?”

    I think this beautifully sums up the value of all great writing and the faith an author needs to have that their work is worthwhile. A novel or a biography or a poem doesn’t need to appeal to everyone and its audience doesn’t need to be large – but if it makes a difference, even to a few and even if they don’t realise it at the time, then the writing has value. Of course, that’s not necessarily commercial value, but that’s what publicity departments are for, right?

    I also wanted to relay my own connection to this book, which I hope may help assuage some of your own lingering doubts. When The Naked Husband was first published in Australia I was running an independent bookshop in Sydney called Banjo Books and we were lucky enough to host an author event with you for your book. The event itself was actually a dinner, with you, myself, my father and around 20 women, all with very passionate but diverse views on your book.

    Many of the women in the room had experience with partner infidelity and a lot of them appreciated your candor and felt that it had given them an insight into their own experiences and helped to perhaps understand, if not forgive, the minds of the men who had cheated on them. It quickly became apparent, however, that, for some, you were a convenient proxy upon which to unload their own anger and unresolved feelings of betrayal and hurt.

    I remember one woman in particular who, like the stranger who crossed the room in your example above, was vociferous in her disdain and determined that you not be commended for your honesty or courage or in any way exonerated for your sin of adultery. She hated idea that you may profit from the experience through royalties and resisted any attempts by others to draw any positive lessons from the book.

    In the week or so after the event we received an unprecedented (and to my knowledge unsurpassed) number of emails and comments from attendees of the dinner remarking on what an amazing night it was and how challenging and thought provoking they had found it. It was so much in people’s that we organised a follow up book group to “debrief” after the dinner. That ‘one woman in particular’ did not attend, but it was interesting to see that many of the others, in the few weeks that had passed, had a much greater respect for you than they’d shown at the dinner. There was on comment that I still remember clearly:

    “After I thought about it I realised that what made me most upset about the book [and at Colin] was that I actually understood and sympathised with him because I’ve often felt exactly the same way”

    So thanks for writing the book and thanks for your candor and courage at dinner all those years ago.

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