The first time I heard the phrase “The author is dead” in an intro to literary theory class, I was completely puzzled. We wouldn’t have many sequels if all authors were dead, now, would we?
But it didn’t take long to realize that the words were figurative. (Figurative language in a literary theory class? Who’da thunk?) Once a book is out in the world, it doesn’t matter what the author meant it to say. The book is open to the interpretation of all who read it.
This was one of the things that I worried about leading up to Demon’s Heart‘s release. Once it was out in the world, in a way, it would no longer be mine. It would be whatever the readers made it out to be based on their own experiences, tastes, opinions, and so forth.
But the day after release, I’ve already had a good laugh over this very concept. I’ve had two very dear people place Demon’s Heart on opposite ends of the romance spectrum. Romance! Do you know where romance falls on my list of things I think about when categorizing Demon’s Heart? Somewhere on level five or six. Sure, there’s a boy and a girl and teenage hormones play a role, but to have romance brought out as a principle sub-genre and critiqued as such in two very different ways . . . it made me smile. I suppose everyone views it through their own eyes.
What do you think? Is the author truly dead? Have you ever had a reader give you a totally unexpected perspective on your book?
If you’re interested, here are a few reviews that have rolled in. Enjoy!
I wholeheartedly believe the author is dead. Trying to prove otherwise makes the entire community look bad, whether well-intentioned or not. That’s how I see it. And it’s been proven time and again in articles after article and scandal after scandal.
Yeah, it’s definitely a hot debate. Authors have their own view of the work–but that’s all it is. There’s no way an author can impose his or her perspective on a work after it’s been released for the public to read and interpret.
Different interpretations of the same book has always interested me. I once heard someone wax philosophically about the meaning of a book only to be corrected by the author it was a highlight of my day.
Haha, that’s always fun. It’s funny how often a reader reads so much more into a work than the author intended–or something entirely different. It just goes to show that every book is something different to every reader.
I was searching and searching for this quote from Hemingway and found it right after I posted my reply: “Then there is the other secret. There isn’t any symbolysm [sic]. The sea is the sea. The old man is an old man. The boy is a boy and the fish is a fish. The shark are all sharks no better and no worse.” Funny to see Hemingway’s opinion of his readers’ interpretations.
Had three agents review part of my book for a contest. My book is an adult detective mystery with psychic elements. One classified it as an urban fantasy (there are no werewolves, witches, vamps, angels, demons, or magic in it), one insisted it was a romance (yes, the two main characters find themselves attracted to each other, but that’s not the core of the book), and a third wanted the psychic elements pulled (which, in my opinion, are a major part of the story and figure heavily into how the main characters interact with each other). Sigh. Unexpected perspectives for sure!
Oh dear! It is amazing how crazy different people’s perspectives are on the very same words. That’s quite an amazing spread of genres!
As sad as it makes me, I have to somewhat agree that the author is dead, or at least dying. However, the writer is always alive and in full force in the world.
My beta-readers all enjoyed different aspects of the book, and predictably enough, the pre-teen girl immediately picked up on the VERY minor undertones of attachment (I wouldn’t call it romance yet since the characters are 12-14 years old) in the work. The adults enjoyed different elements altogether and it was interesting to hear the responses. Sadly, editors/agents haven’t as yet given me feedback except to politely reject my work, though one did say she thought the concept was fabulous. I inferred from this that the execution was lacking (which led to my current massive overhaul/re-write).
It does make me sad that authors have so little voice for their own creations once they’re unleashed onto the literary masses. C’est la vie! Not much we can do about it, I guess.
Yeah . . . It really bothered me for a while, but then I started thinking about how I feel when, after I’ve read a book, an author comes out and says something COMPLETELY different from what I imagined about the story. I think part of the magic of reading is being able to fill in the holes yourself as a reader, and it kind of puts a damper on things when the author comes in afterward and tries to fill in the holes for you.
Age group definitely does affect what they see in the story. And hey, it’s definitely a plus to hear that the concept is fabulous! That just means that you’re on the right path and the mechanics need a little greasing. 🙂