There’s a rift between creator and consumer. Artist and observer. Writer and reader.
And it might be irreparable.
In Part I, I talked about how looking for meaning can destroy the experience of a work of art. As Gandalf says, “He that breaks a thing to find out what it is has left the path of wisdom.” Hopefully people aren’t ripping out the pages of their books, or slashing canvases in galleries, but there are other ways to break a a work of art. When analyzing gets in the way of experiencing the work, then something is broken. When “What are we supposed to see?” gets in the way of seeing, then something is broken.
But people create to express.
They express their history. Their culture. Their personality. Gender. Geography. Wealth. Poverty. Prejudice. Injury. Injustice. Probably hundreds of other things I haven’t thought of because I don’t analyze. Stories are full of these expressions. They are full of messages.
Just like that painting that looks like a three year old did it. Or the sculpture that looks like the night janitor dropped the contents of his pockets. Or the Last Supper. Or the Mona Lisa.
So there’s a disconnect. A writer writes. But what the reader reads may be something completely different. A writer puts all of their experience and passion and secrets and hopes and dreams and beliefs and biases onto the page. A reader goes to sleep with a nice story in their head. Maybe no more than that. Does it all go to waste?
“I don’t get it.”
I’ve said it in my literature class, and I’ve thought it to myself when reading alone. But I move on. Because I love stories, because I read for enjoyment, because I can look at a painting that is beautiful and enjoy it even if I don’t understand why, I don’t get hung up on “I don’t get it.”
But does it all go to waste?
Reading is passive. A story is a discrete unit of information meant to be consumed, not altered, not expanded, not evolved. Someone writes it. You read it. Maybe if you’re lucky you have a book club to discuss it with. But that’s about it. There’s no interaction. The reader takes no part in the story creation. Like standing in an art gallery trying to dissect the meaning of lines and shadows, sitting at home puzzling over every word is passive.
And that is the problem: experiencing art often is passive. But it doesn’t have to be.
The internet gives voice to the reader. We have blogs. We have forums. We have fan fiction. All this allows readers to explore stories and interact with them. The internet is more than a congregating place for fans. It’s where stories come to grow. Where the reader takes an active part in the story world.
A story is no longer a discrete unite of information, but a living and evolving piece of culture.
Sometimes I hear people in (not just) literary circles decry the amount of time “kids these days” spend online instead of in books. I say the literary community has blossomed online. I hear them say that computers will be the death of books. I say that computers are books. They are books that come with the ability to communicate with people on the other end, to interact with a story world, and to make that world grow by community.
And then meaning can thrive.
Then when you say,
“I don’t get it,”
someone, somewhere will say,