Re: RARA-AVIS: Re: Name Your Poison

From: Kerry J. Schooley (
Date: 29 Aug 2006

At 08:56 PM 29/08/2006 +0100, you wrote:

>I honestly don't think writers (particularly those writing from
>character-specific points of view) do a lot of instructing, intentionally
>or otherwise. More likely, readers do a lot of interpreting.

Sure, both. Protagonists have objectives. Readers identify with the protagonist. Achieving the objective involves overcoming impediments, usually represented by an antagonist. Conflict is inherent in western story-telling. That implies values and morals.

> The reader may interpret a moral message from a story, but it certainly
> doesn't mean that the author intended it.

The author's intentions, on this level, are irrelevant.

> That's even assuming that the author's in agreement with his
> point-of-view character's worldview, which is often not the case.

No, it isn't. You give a character a gun. The assumed value shared between the author and the reader, is that the gun can shoot, might be used to achieve certain objectives. You, the author, might not agree with the use of the gun, or the objectives your character might use it to achieve, but readers might reasonably assume that the gun in the hands of the character will have some purpose or value. Of course, they may be wrong. The gun may jam, suggesting the gun is not reliable in sorting out these objectives. Or a number of other things might happen that readers might interpret while the author only intended to show that the character was armed and dangerous
(dangerous- isn't that a moral evaluation?) But if one of the characters in your book suddenly spurt blood and fall to the ground, and no gun is introduced, no explanation or interpretation is given to these events, the reader might conclude that the story has no meaning.

To some extent this may be the curse of a communicative species- but all actions, imagined or sensed, imply values. This is certainly the curse of a judgemental species. And, of course, I'm interpreting "moral value" broadly as well, but I think that's possible to do.

True, the noir genre may be used to express a world of random acts without moral value, but for a species obsessed with right and wrong, with what works and what does not, how and why, that is also a moral vision. Not moral "good", but moral as in involving moral issues.

Anyway, that's my poison. Kerry

>----- Original Message -----
>From: Kerry J. Schooley
>To: <>
>Sent: Tuesday, August 29, 2006 5:59 PM
>Subject: Re: RARA-AVIS: Re: Name Your Poison
>At 05:16 PM 29/08/2006 +0100, you wrote:
> >A 'lesson', you say, Kerry? I'm sure there are many novelists who would be
> >mortified to hear that they're giving lessons in morality. I certainly am.
> >I hate didacticism. Apart from which, I'm unqualified as a moralist, being
> >as how I'm a sick bastard. Doesn't stop me telling stories, though.
> >Probably helps a little.
>Sorry Al, you can't get around it. Your work reflects values from your
>culture, either reinforcing them or challenging them as a consequence. You
>might not have intended to instruct me that nice guys don't hit their
>friends with a baseball bat, but you did. Mind you, that pretty much
>confirmed suspicions I already held, but then I tend to empathize with
>innocent victims even though I don't believe such a creature exists in
>"real" life.
>Of course, I could be wrong about this. Maybe being nice doesn't matter,
>and folk can get ahead by threatening their friends with a baseball bat and
>that's all that counts, but I don't think your "Kiss Her Goodbye" supported
>that idea. Of course, I could be wrong about that too.
>I don't mean to suggest that writers intend to instruct. Only that any
>literature (and I use the word broadly- anything that has been published in
>one form or another) inherently reflects values from its culture,
>positively or negatively. If the baseball bat had no purpose of effect in
>Kiss Her Goodbye, you wouldn't have used it, because then the book would
>have been as entertaining as it was. Kevin might have argued that it is
>unreal to have people threaten their associates without some weapon at
>hand. Or otherwise.
>A shameless attempt at self-promotion, even by a sick bastard, affirms the
>value of shameless self-promotion, by it's mere existence. I could debate
>that further, of course, but it would simply be more of the same. You're
>right about didacticism though. The tone's off-putting (he said didactically.)
>one sick bastard to another,
> >----- Original Message -----
> >From: Kerry J. Schooley
> >To:
> <><>
> >Sent: Tuesday, August 29, 2006 4:25 PM
> >Subject: Re: RARA-AVIS: Re: Name Your Poison
> >
> >At 07:52 PM 28/08/2006 -0400, you wrote:
> >
> > >And, of course, there's entertainment. It's awfully puritanical to
> > >claim literature must give a moral lesson.
> >
> >I don't think the question is whether literature should give a moral lesson
> >so much as that it does and unavoidably so.
> >
> >Literature is produced within a culture and one way or another it addresses
> >the values of that culture, often by assumption, as it must to be taken as
> >"real" or "meaningful" or even "entertaining" by its consumers.
> >
> >Culture defines reality or truth for its members. Morals are the guidelines
> >for dealing with those realities. These truths and morals vary from culture
> >to culture, and in large, complex cultures, there is room for variation
> >within as well. Specific morals may prove to be wrong and the culture carry
> >on, but in the long run, any culture without sufficient values and morals
> >to support its survival will disappear, along with its literature.
> >Individuals that leave their culture, never to return, are dead to that
> >culture. If they do return and write about their experiences, they've
> >returned to the debate about cultural values.
> >
> >Among the prime values of western civilization are those that support
> >communication. The culture of communications has grown so large and complex
> >it supports increasing numbers of competing truths, values, morals. By
> >understanding that its content is composed of these "competing truths" or,
> >if you prefer, lies, fiction becomes the only truthful literary form.
> >
> >my two cents and welcome to it,
> >Kerry
> >
> >------------------------------------------------------
> >Literary events Calendar (South Ont.)
> ><<>>http://www.lit-
> >The evil men do lives after them
> ><<>>http://www.
> >------------------------------------------------------
> >
> >[Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
> >
> >
>Literary events Calendar (South Ont.)
>The evil men do lives after them
>[Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
>[Non-text portions of this message have been removed]

------------------------------------------------------ Literary events Calendar (South Ont.) The evil men do lives after them

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