Although the month is right, the weather is just teasing us with it being autumn. A few cool (relative to the 90 degree weather from earlier) days, then bam, back up to low 80s. It’s evil and I can almost hear the weather gods laughing maniacally.
School keeps me busy, the stack of grading and the prep that goes into trying to inspire and ignite interest in literature and theatre. We’re finishing up The Tempest by Shakespeare in Lit and I’ve come across something interesting (to me at least). There’s an interpretation of why Trinculo and Stephano put on the gaudy clothes that Prospero lays out to trap them. The critical interpretation is that it parallels Sebastian and Antonio who attempt to ‘dress’ in borrowed power (wanting to assassinate the king and take over Naples). It’s an interesting idea and I can see its merit, but my students and I were wondering if perhaps Shakespeare wasn’t trying to parallel anything but just wanted his clown-like characters to look even more ridiculous and dress them in funny clothes.
I responded that that could be true, but reader response criticism is no less valid. What the reader ‘sees’ in the story and interprets whatever to mean whatever is a perfectly possible critique. As long as you can supply proof from the text and perhaps other elements in context.
I know, you’re probably wondering were I’m going with this. But I’m noticing that with my own book, Phase. In reading reviews on Goodreads and Amazon, etc. I’m realizing that sometimes, what my readers ‘see’ is so different than what I thought I was writing. At times I’ve wanted to respond to reviews (both good and less than good) with a simple “No, you don’t quite understand. The character was actually thinking/doing/reacting…” I’ve wanted to defend my characters, their choices, which ultimately are my choices.
It’s not my place. Not my place to argue with a reader about what they got wrong (according to me). Can you imagine having Jane Austen argue with you about why Mr. Bingley is so cheerful? Or Dickens explaining Marley’s choices? If someone actually asks me directly, then I could say something, but to butt in on their own interpretation? Nope.
It’s really hard not to.
When you get published, it’s not really yours anymore. In ways, that’s wonderful. In other ways, it’s like sharing custody of your kids or your pets. You have to share and you don’t get a say in the other person’s parenting skills.
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