Who decides whether a book has a hidden meaning? Do the critics alone decide, or does the author hint at it, or go full on and explain it all in great detail? Or is it the fans, desperate to show that their favourite book is actually a damning indictment of the horrors of a Government conspiracy, or whatever? Do they read meaning into what’s written on the pages, even if there’s no hidden meaning there at all? Perhaps the author meant to simply tell an entertaining story, and the so-called ‘deeper meaning’ is just a happy coincidence.
This is nothing new, of course, people can read anything into anything. Just look at the theory of Paul McCartney actually being dead when the Beatles were in their prime or, dare I say it, stories in The Bible.
But writing abstract, yes I’ll say it, nonsense is something different entirely. A writer should write for themselves and not the audience, I’ve heard it said, and ‘here here,’ I reply. If an established author sits before their computer, or notepad, or typewriter and lets flow whatever they are feeling, the words can be potentially poetically beautiful. They can also make no narrative sense at all. But whatever is produced, I salute them for writing what’s important to them.
But it’s when people start with the whole ‘It’s just sooo true, I really know where they’re coming from. What, did you not understand it? Oh never mind, maybe it’s a bit too intellectual for you,’ that it really annoys me.
It’s the same in films. A director known for their excellent lighting and cinematography can get away with a movie that seems to make no sense, so long as it looks pretty it will be well received. A novel of the same ilk will contain beautiful prose but without the classic beginning, middle, and satisfactory ending.
So suppose that there is in fact something deep within the words to be interpreted that is not apparent at a casual glance. I’d say that an amateur writer would do well to gather this kind of acclaim. Their work may be looked upon as making no coherent sense, possibly because they have trouble forming grammatically correct sentences or cannot produce a well structured character. A well respected and established author can get away with things that amateurs cannot. Once you’ve ‘made it’ you could pretty much take the piss with any future releases to see exactly how far your fans will allow you to drag them along.
Now I’m not naming any names, and I’m certainly not saying this is all a bad thing. In a way I admire it, it’s like a hidden middle finger to an audience who are too engrossed on every word to grasp the message. I’d love to be in a position to do something like that.
As a (very) amateur writer, if I submitted a story of, say 3000 words that made no comprehensible sense with jumbled meanings and too-strange characters, I’m sure I’d be hearing back something like ‘Thanks, but it’s not what we’re looking for right now.’ And I would be right to expect that. But maybe there is hidden meaning there, and if I got the chance to explain the finer details to this rejecting editor, they too may see how much of a genius I actually am.
But that won’t happen, not as an amateur. I get it, though.
I have read some of my previous works to a number of my past victims. It’s weird, though, when chained to a filthy operating table they never seem to offer me any constructive criticism. In fact, I’ve never had anyone criticise any of my work in those circumstances. Maybe only people who have been tortured can see the brilliance in my words. Funny that. It didn’t prevent them being further tortured, though.
Anyway, I’m digressing. If someone has been hard at it for years, determined to make a success of writing then they have earned the ability to just write what they like and receive acclaim for it.
So if I ever make it, I’ll be sure to make a collection of all my previously rejected work (there’s a lot) and sell it as ‘previously misunderstood masterpieces.’ Then the world will understand me.
Or maybe I’ll just have to wait until I’m dead, then I’ll get the recognition I deserve. No one likes to speak ill of the dead. It’s a bit of an extreme ploy but you never know.
Photo credit: guy with cameras via Visualhunt / CC BY-NC-SA
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