I've just finished Ender's Game (review to be posted soon!), but, before I even got into the story, I encountered a fascinating discussion in the introduction by the author. I think Orson Scott Card brings up some great points. What do you think?
The attacks on the novel--and on me--were astonishing. Some of it I expected--I have a master's degree in literature, and in writing Ender's Game I deliberately avoided all the little literary games and gimmicks that make "fine" writing so impenetrable to the general audience. All the layers of meaning are there to be decoded, if you like to play the game of literary criticism--but if you don't care to play that game, that's fine with me. I designed Ender's Game to be as clear and accessible as any story of mine could possibly be. My goal was that the reader wouldn't have to be trained in literature or even n science fiction to receive the tale i its simplest, purest form. And, since a great many writers and critics have based their entire careers on the promise that anything that the general public can understand without mediation is worthless drivel, it is not surprising that they found my little novel to be despicable. If everybody came to agree that stories should be told this clearly, the professors of literature would be out of a job, and the writers of obscure, encoded fiction would be, not honored, but pitied for their impenetrability.
When I read this, I could not hold back a snicker. I have noticed the very same thing that Orson Scott Card has noticed: the tendency of the literary class to have a snobby competition of "I can find a deeper meaning in this story than you can."
I recall my American Literature course in college in which we were called upon to analyze Robert Frost's poems. I read "Birches" and thought with delight: "How quintessentially New England! Doesn't he do a good job of recreating the nostalgia of childhood among the birch trees? I share his desire to return to the peace of the simple life. And, boy, do I love birch trees."
My classmates, however, saw something entirely different. Before I knew it, we were all educated that, clearly, the birches were far more than birches, the boy was more than just a boy, and the poem was about intensely deep, obscure, and spiritual things.
I completed that class with an abiding terror that someday people would find all sorts of hidden agendas in my stories that I had never put in there and construe messages that I had never meant to convey. True, just about everything I write communicates on both a simple level and a symbolic level, but my goal is to create a story that people can enjoy at a surface level but still discover treasure in through subsequent readings.
If a writer cannot communicate some universal message clearly and understandably, without "mediation," as Mr. Card puts it--then what has he achieved?
What is your opinion of deep literary interpretations? What is the worst such interpretation you have encountered? What is the most thought-provoking?
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2/16/2017 06:39:03 pm
Great post! It's interesting that critics dislike simplicity. I hadn't thought about that before too much, at least consciously. But telling a story which is clear and simultaneously deep.
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I write YA/adult fantasy & sci-fi that explores fantastic and interconnected worlds, with stories that burn through the darkest realities with hope and redemption.
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