Re: RARA-AVIS: Re: Name Your Poison

From: Kerry J. Schooley (
Date: 30 Aug 2006

At 09:38 AM 30/08/2006 +0100, Al wrote:

>I can see how you can derive a moral theme from a shopping list (bread,
>milk, handcuffs, tape, spade), if you're so inclined, but that's -- as I
>said before -- the reader's interpretation. It's very far from giving a
>moral lesson. A lesson requires intent on the part of the author to
>instruct the reader.

Sure Al, but you can't blame it all on the reader. Like, why are handcuffs on the list? It's your list. You tell me- which you probably would do if the list were used in fiction. Ditto your use of the baseball bat in Kiss Her Goodbye. Your book. Your bat. You provided examples of its use in an atypical fashion. Not the first time that a baseball bat has been used as a weapon, in or outside of fiction, but you're the one who raised the subject in this case, not the reader.

But to put the thing in what I think is its proper perspective- nobody is innocent. You took up the responsibility to know what you were writing about when you decided to become a writer. You pass along information, even in a fictional context. As the reader in this case, I make my own use of the information provided. It's a loop- culture affects and reports perceived reality. For much of this stuff, as Mark said, we share common knowledge of this stuff already, to the extent that we take it for granted. And we become aware of how pervasive it is only when we perceive alternatives to accepted reality. Which I think was my starting point on this, way back when I read Kevin's rant (and a good rant it was, too.)

And Mark said:

"All art contains ideology, but that doesn't mean the ideology must be the point of art. Didacticism, which also bores me, happens when all other aspects of art -- plot, character, entertainment, etc -- are manipulated in order to call attention to, usually to sell, a specific ideology."

I agree with this in the broad strokes, but I think it enters into the mushy ambiguities Al enjoys when we get to some specifics. Specifically, I'm now thinking of the Prone Gunman. Seemed to me that the author intended to illustrate the application of an existential philosophy (whether it's possible to know what's actually in another person's mind I'll save for another debate.) So it's didactic. And manipulate characters, plots, entertainment, is what writers do. Does that automatically make it boring? I think what you're saying is that the manipulation to make a specific point should not be obvious to the reader. We're really just talking good versus bad writing. Or am I putting words in your mouth?

And Mr. Borgers said:

"And I'm not convince at all that "entertainment" is the final goal of lit."

Actually, I'd make it the first goal. Works that don't entertain have few, or at least fewer, readers, limiting the capacity to instruct, intended or otherwise. Such books are often found on mandatory course reading lists.

Here endeth the lesson, Kerry

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

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