Author Intimacy

Michael of the 2Blowhards talks about the collaborative nature of art--how works of art are often the product of more than one person. Then he asks, "To my mind, one of the bigger puzzles of the reading-and-writing game is the question, Why do so many readers enjoy imagining that the book they're reading was created by only one person? Why should this matter? Weird."

I don't think it's so weird. I am one person reading, so I imagine that I'm communing with the one person who wrote whatever I'm reading.

There's a quote in the movie Shadowlands that says, "We read to know we're not alone." But we don't read to know that we're one of an extended collaborative effort, of a buzz of voices and chattering. At least I don't. When I sit in a quiet place and open a book, I'm sharing that space with one special, inspired author, and the author only. When I open a book in a crowded place, it's as if the author and I looked at each other, understanding, and said, "Let's get out of here and find someplace we can talk."

We like to think that the author is a human being like us, but one who had special insight. That what he or she wrote was a labor of vision and love. Not that a book occurred the way, say, a technical document from Cubicle Land occurs. That when we have a flash of insight, or are caught by surprise as how intimately the author seems to know us, that we're on the same wavelength of someone with special powers of vision and understanding.

I think it's weird that some people find great satisfaction in pointing out why the great writers and artists weren't really as great as we thought they were. (I'm not saying Michael is doing this, and I don't think he is ... but I read a lot of that kind of thing when I was in grad school, and it really irked me at times.)

So, I know that I read with the idea (misguided or not) that I'm communing with a single author, the one who wrote the words and had the thoughts that, through the words, reach into my thoughts and find something familiar. Just the other day, I was thinking about how odd it seems that an I, an average kid from a po-dunk little town in south Louisiana, can feel like Shakespeare and Mozart are my intimate friends. They're not, obviously, but they seem to connect to me in ways that even my closest friends cannot.

Also, when I read, when I feel that intimacy with an author, it doesn't matter to me that a gazillion other people have read the same book, and perhaps felt that same intimacy. It's a one-to-one thing. (When I read the newest Harry Potter a few weeks ago, I was the only person reading it, as far as I was concerned. And the six other people reading it in my same coffee shop at the time probably felt the same way ...)

But the fact that we all feel that same intimacy ... that sort of connects all of us readers with each other, doesn't it, in a way?

I'm thankful for all of the people who have played a role in the success, and the voices, of my favorite artists. But most of all, I'm thankful for the artists themselves, whose words, thoughts, insights, and sheer entertainment ability have made richer my own world, and that of my fellow readers.

I'm such a dork. It's 8:45. Time to get ready to take Miss Hideaway to the vet.

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