Thursday, July 22, 2010

A Message From The Anti-Vivisectionist Book Club

Would you like to know the best way to ruin the aesthetic integrity of a book? It's pretty easy. Just pick your favorite literary obsession- The Lord of the Rings, Finnegan's Wake, The Trial, The Iliad, The New Testament, hell, even the Twilight series- then find a fan group (online or off) and start picking away at the narrative until there's nothing left but bone, break the bone and suck the marrow. Don't spend too much time thinking about the fact that the story (which you claim to love) was alive when you started gnawing away at its flesh.

Now I'm not saying that there's nothing to be found beneath the painted surface of an author's work, and I'm not denying that many writers welcome, even crave, a closer reading of the pages they took so much effort to craft. But a writer also understands (or ought to understand) that the act of creating a story for others often involves ruining much of its beauty within themselves. I can't imagine that any author who truly loves the work they've given life to would wish to see it pulled to pieces upon the altar of fandom, that "deplorable cultus" as Tolkien so aptly put it, and I can't see why some readers can't be satisfied with the pulse and rhythm of a story's heart, that they have to dig it out and eat it, too.


  1. This impulse starts with academics at all levels. The educational priests are the first ones to rush in and tell us that we don't really understand a work until they explain it to us -- provided we're fortunate enough to be smart enough to understand the complexity of their explanation. The people you're commenting about here were all been exposed to this viral intellectualism for most of their educational lives.

    The work is the work. If you want to know about the work, go back to the work. Always.

  2. Agreed, Mark. Many years ago I joined a mailing list discussion group for the works of a certain well respected but little (by NYT bestseller standards) known science fiction writer. For a long while it was a useful resource (it lead me to a lot of wonderful books I never would have found on my own), and it was nice to be able to find a group of people to share my appreciation of this particular author. But over the years it has begun to devolve into pedantry and fanboyism, and even though I still belong to the list, I hardly ever read any of the discussions, and I haven't taken part in one in months and months. Worse, I fear I've lost something I'll never get back, that sense of wonder I had on reading this writer's best work. Hence, the genesis of this post.