Thursday, November 8, 2018

Embracing the Hostile Read

There's an old saying, "No text can survive a hostile read." 

I also like this exchange from the West Wing, when Sam Seaborn is told that a passage from a speech given by the First Lady has angered an activist group.
SAM: I don't see it.
CJ: You have to want it to see it.

Here's the thing about writing anything: everyone is going to come at it with their own biases, their own take.  Once you send it out into the world, you have no way to control how people are going to take it.  And, more specifically, if people are going to want to misread your text, bring their hostile read to you, you really have to just take it.

I'm not saying this to address any specific or recent review-- in fact I've been quite pleased with the recent reviews for THE WAY OF THE SHIELD-- but more as a sort of zen reminder that people will find the things that they connect to, that they can interpret with their own biases, and even though it doesn't match my intentions... that doesn't matter.

I'm kind of arguing for "the death of the author", I know, but the point is, all I can do is put it on the page.  If the reader finds something there I didn't intend, that's how it is.  In fact, I think it's great to embrace that, and see what I can learn.  Isn't that what it's about, after all?  Constantly trying to learn, grow and improve?

That's my goal, at least.
Hey, are you in the northeast?  What are you doing next weekend?  Me, I'm the Special Guest at PhilCon!  If you can, come on out, and come say hello!   

1 comment:

Steven Arellano Rose Jr. said...

This brings me back to my college English major days. One of the big reading theories we were taught was reader response where the reader interprets the story based on his/her own experiences and beliefs. Which I'm okay with, although a person can take it a bit too far. (I know I have at times!) But if they do, it's their loss not the author's. I like the fact that we as readers have the space to interpret stories as we want, yet I believe the author should be kept in mind to some extent since he/she is a fellow human being telling the story. But a story is like real life: every person sees it differently.

That's a really good point you brought up. Thanks for the great post!