[DWJ] endings [was Best of 2008]

Phil Boswell phil.boswell at gmail.com
Mon Dec 29 17:17:29 EST 2008

on 2008/12/29 Charlie Butler <charles.hannibal at gmail.com> wrote:
> 2008/12/29 Phil Boswell <phil.boswell at gmail.com>
>> >What can possibly be any more valid than the author's intention?
> To be fair, I don't think I've seen anyone say that it's not valid for an
> author to have an intention.

To be fair again, that's not what I was responding to, rather what
appeared to be a tongue-in-cheek statement: "Not that the author's
intention is a valid thing, of course" ... in other words stating that
whatever intention the author might have had is invalid.

> It is of course possible to say something other than what you mean - to
> mis-speak, as Hillary Clinton memorably put it - in ordinary conversation. I
> see no problem with the idea that the same is possible in literature. For
> example: you intend to write a romantic hero, but for one reason or another
> he turns out an arrogant jerk. He won't stop being a jerk just because you
> tell people not to see him that way. (Even so, it's always interesting to
> know what you meant to do.)

Again, this is not the same thing. It's one thing to intend to write a
romantic hero and have him turn out a bit of a jerk. It's quite
another to be told that your original intention is irrelevant or
invalid, even worse to be told to your face that actually you intended
for him to be a jerk in the first place.

My sociologist wife used to employ the phrase "falsely conscious" when
she was telling me what I was supposed to think on any given subject.
I reckon she realised it simply wound me up way before she ever
stopped using it, because apparently the sight of me foaming at the
mouth brought her some small amusement (and who am I to deny my
beloved any such simple pleasure?).

To refer to the Asimov example quoted elsewhere in this thread...it is
quite one thing for a critic to tell Asimov that his personal
interpretation of one of his own stories is not necessarily any more
valid than any readers. It's obvious to anyone that what goes on
inside a reader's head is a heady mixture of responses to the current
text and to any or all previously-read texts, with a dash of whatever
happened earlier that day tossed with a dressing of what the reader
just ate.

It's quite another for our anonymous critic to be telling Asimov what
his interpretation of his own story *ought* to be:

Minnow said:
> It is great fun to be present when DWJ reads something that states
> unequivocally but incorrectly what she meant when she wrote some book,
> and one can learn whole new interesting ways to express oaths and
> maledictions.

Well, isn't that pretty much what I said? It's certainly pretty much
what I *intended* to say.

Oh, wait...
...who is currently topping his crackers with Marks & Spencer "Cornish
Cruncher with Balsamic Onion" and is looking forward to the one with

More information about the Dwj mailing list