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  Click here to go to the first staff post in this thread.   Thread: About interpretation

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    Retired Staff Frank LeRenard's Avatar
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    So, quite literally, style over substance.
    That makes me curious, then, why you ever grew to like my writing. I do tend to approach things in a rather utilitarian manner. I guess I try every now and then to use creative language or metaphor, but it's mostly just to keep certain passages (like description or exposition) from being completely boring to read. Because no one wants to read, "There was a garden. It had colorful flowers growing in it. It smelled nice." But making things flow or whatever has always been secondary to me, something you must learn to be a 'good' writer, but not as important as the story I'm telling. And otherwise, I play around with language when I'm trying to be sly with the message I want to get across, or when I don't want to be direct regarding certain plot points or character attributes. But that's all.

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    Retired Staff Frank LeRenard's Avatar
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    I wanted to give a little update to this thread. I've been thinking quite a bit about what people (mostly Tybby) said regarding this topic, and so recently I went ahead and attempted to write a story sort of like what I complained about in the OP. And in so doing I've run into an amusing problem.

    Basically it's this: I discovered a razor's edge in thematic writing and symbolic writing, which might also apply to writing in general. On one side of this razor is the 'too obvious, insulting the reader's intelligence' zone, and on the other side is 'too subtle, nobody can understand what the hell you're trying to say' zone. In trying to write a subtle, symbolic, very thematic story, I discovered just how difficult it is to stand on that edge without tipping over one side or the other. And it got me to thinking that I'm probably being too hard on things like the New Yorker's short stories. I bet the authors who write those stories spend just as much--if not much more--time writing them as I spent writing my attempt at a similar kind of story (an entire month, at least an hour a day, often more, most of it spent sitting back and thinking or rethinking individual sentences), and in the end they just went ahead and tipped over to the 'too subtle' zone like I did. And I started to realize that maybe only one person in a billion can actually balance on that edge, and that this leaves two other kinds of fiction: hoity-toity puzzling fiction, and fiction that general audiences can enjoy. And those two sides are in constant combat over which one has more merit, when in the end they're really just two sides of the same coin. Or razor. Whatever.

    I may or may be making sense, but anyone have thoughts on this? I'm trying to evolve as a writer here, and it's hard and requires sacrificing things like pride and making redactions on my previous lines of argument.

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    Senior catwithpen's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Frank LeRenard View Post
    What I'm wondering from the community is, what are your opinions on analyses like this? Does it matter if, when interpreting a work, most of what's gleaned ends up being a fabrication by the interpreter?
    I think it does matter. I think it's ok to say "This book / piece of art make feel this way, or made me think of this," but I hate it when people say "Oh, this is what the author/artist meant." You don't know that. Even with things like realistic art, you don't know for sure why the artist did what they did, or why they did it in that particular way. With monern art or literary fiction, it's impossible to know. It's ok to guess, but be honest about the fact that you're just guessing and no one really knows except the author. (And maybe not even the author, in some cases.)

    Quote Originally Posted by Frank LeRenard View Post
    Or maybe in simpler terms, what's the line between a useful truth and bullshit, or is there one?
    I'm not sure. I think that, if your pondering causes you to come to some sort of useful conclusion about life, or humanity, or yourself or whatever...then I think that has worth, even if it wasn't what the book was meant to say.

    Quote Originally Posted by Frank LeRenard View Post
    And do works that have no clear message and no clear story have a purpose other than mild mental stimulation? Is it lazy for the author to write something that's meant only to spark discussion about what it could mean?
    I hope people aren't writing vague books just so people can discuss what it might mean. That seems like nothing but showing off "Look, I wrote a whole book of beautiful prose without saying anything!" I would prefer to think that they did have a meaning in mind, but it got lost in all the vagueness.

    Do works with no message have a purpose? I think not for the audience. However, I think that in many cases, the author/artist created that work because they needed to; it was something they needed to get down on paper. Did they need to go make it public? Probably not, since it's not really useful to anyone else. But sometimes we need recognition for our work, even if it's not useful or has no purpose.

 

 

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