Sunday, January 17, 2010

What the reader brings to a book...

I've just had the most rip-roaring discussion about Twilight on Twitter! I'm all jazzed now!

I was NEVER going to read Twilight. First of all because I tend to shy away from books and movies that many other people rave about. Hearing too much about a book or a movie before reading or viewing it usually puts me off. I don't feel like I can come to the book or movie with an open mind, particularly if it's been raved about because then I tend to be far too critical of the book or movie to enjoy it - it's my rebellious streak, you see.

Then Dave's mum gave me the first two books in the Twilight series. She'd read them (she's 81) and thought I might like them. I don't particularly like the Vampire genre. Was never a fan of Buffy or that other Buffy spin-off. Had no interest in seeing "Interview with a Vampire" when it came out. I did watch and like, "Lost Boys" but somehow not because of the Vampire aspect.

So, anyway, with the books at hand, and from my MIL, no less, I felt somehow obligated to read the first chapter anyway, so I could hondestly say, "Dipped in, but it really wasn't for me"...

And then I read, and I read, and I read, and I found myself at the end of the first book.

It's not literature by any means, I haven't found any disagreement amongst my friends about that point. There is plenty of disagreement about the feminist issues with the books though.

Yes, yes, I'm a renowned "feminist hater", so I expect some of you to close this window at this point.

For those of you who have decided to read the rest of this point (you few brave souls), I will reward you with assurance that I don't hate feminists. Most people who know me would say I'm as feminist as any proclaimed feminist in our society. But this is not what I'm hear to talk about, either.

Through the discussion on Twitter, it became clear to me that how the reader reads the book can change the message of the book COMPLETELY!

As a writer, I often come to a story with something I want to communicate, though sometimes I'm not aware of what that thing is until I'm halfway or more through the book. What I sometimes forget is that what I wish to communicate may have absolutely NOTHING with what the reader teases from the storyline.

The reader brings a world of experiences and schema to a story, some of which I have NO HOPE of understanding. Some of which I couldn't possibly relate to because I haven't had their experiences or possess their philosophical view of the world.

Where I have read a story about overwhelming attraction between two people, at an obsessive level on both parts, others have read control and submissiveness. Where I have read inexperience and first wonder, other have read being taken advantage of. Where I have read protection and concern for, other have read dominance and attempts to control.

I've brought to reading a book one set of life experiences and understanding and come away with one particular understanding, and others have brought a completely different set of experiences and understandings and come away with completely different understandings.

Neither can be "right" or "wrong" in as much as they are opinions, understanding and therefore completely subjective, but how I wish I could understand what the author intended - though, if she is clever, she will keep that to herself so as to not alienate to many readers...

I personally don't believe that any person can be controlled against their will (oh, I hear hackles rising). I know one person can kill another person, and the fear of dying can motive people to do what they otherwise wouldn't choose to do, but even that is a choice. Choosing not to die is an empowered choice, even if choosing to do something otherwise degrading might be percieved as being disempowered. What is in our mind is our own, no one can take it from us.

However, I think wisdom is gained through experience and the gaining of experience is a journey no one can take for anyone else. Our children can't become empowered simply through doing what we tell them to do. They have to experience for themselves, and some of those experiences necessarily have to be bad, so they can know when they've made better choices. Even still, our children may not perceive realities the way we perceive them. To say books shouldn't portray perceived control over others (if it even is control over others or simply the perception of such) is to assume our children will be whatever we pour into them, because they are empty vessels who bring nothing to this world themselves...

I don't subscribe to the empty vessel theory...

And I digress.

Whatever the writer intends may be waylaid by what the reader perceives in the writing based on their own life experience, understanding and view, this is definitely something for me to keep in mind in my own writing!

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