The Author Is Dead (was Re: Jane Austen was a lot of re that I snipped off)

Hallie O'Donovan hallieod at indigo.ie
Tue Jun 26 14:58:03 EDT 2001


Melissa:

>  >The judgment issue is possibly related.  I'm not trying to speak for
>  >Ven on this, but when I say that I'd sometimes use things outside a
>>text to make judgments about the author, I don't necessarily mean
>>that in the sense of "good person/bad person" judgment.  But I *do*
>>make judgments about where the author is coming from, as Ven put it.
>>Isn't that part of what makes up the decision of whether an author is
>>or is not a favourite for most people?  Of course we've all made the
>>decision that DWJ is a wonderful writer (whatever that might mean),
>>but surely the perception that where she's coming from works for us
>>is equally important.  And some of the things she's written apart
>>from her books, or said in interviews contribute to that sense of
>>where she's coming from.  Similarly with Connie Willis.  Just to go
>>even further out on a limb (might as well be hung for a sheep as a
>>lamb), with Philip Pullman the sense of where he's coming from -
>>partly derived from things outside his books - acts against my
>>perception of his abilities as a writer.  This isn't anything like a
>>judgment of his worth as a person, but it is a judgment.
>
>Do you mean sort of feeling as though the writer is someone you might like
>as a person--someone who's, I don't know, a kindred spirit is the phrase I'm
>coming up with?  Because I'm trying to figure out if I do or don't make this
>kind of judgement....

Well, I was thinking of this as I wrote the above, but didn't want to 
write it for a couple of reasons.  First, I think it's analogous to 
the judgment about whether someone would be a kindred spirit, but 
with several layers of distance.  I am fully aware that I don't 
*know* DWJ or Connie Willis (or Jane Austen, for that matter), just 
from knowing so much of what they've written or said - both in their 
published work and other sources (interviews, letters, essays, 
whatever).  And "kindred spirit"-ness has a lot to do with other 
factors which these written sources don't touch on.  An analogous 
situation with people that you actually *know* might be those people 
you really admire, or want to like, but whose company you just can't 
stand!  (I'm sure I could come up with a better analogy given a bit 
of thought.)

The other thing, of course, is that kindred spirit implies complete 
reciprocity.  And while of course I feel a sneaking suspicion that 
since I like DWJ & CW & JA for all the *right* reasons, they would of 
course return that liking, this is only in Extreme LaLaThink. :)

But I'm not going to like a work, no matter how technically 
brilliant, that cuts across where I'm coming from too much.  This 
doesn't mean that I have to agree with every view presented, or 
believe exactly what the author seems to believe, any more than with 
any friend, but it does mean that there has to be somewhat of a 
comfortable fit.  And things I read outside a text are relevant to 
this as well.  But, again, this is probably only something I even 
bother with if the author is someone who makes a reasonably strong 
impact for some reason or other.  I don't bother for the mind candy.

Hallie.
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