Re: RARA-AVIS: Re: Name Your Poison

From: Allan Guthrie (
Date: 30 Aug 2006

Kerry, I won't tell you why handcuffs are on my list. That'd spoil everything. And it's kind of my point. I don't need to say anything about the list and already you're making judgments and asking questions. That's what we do as readers. Different readers might imagine the list belongs to: someone into kinky sex; a serial killer; a cop; an escapologist; a one-handed man with a sense of humour. But the list is simply a list. It does not instruct per se but it is open to interpretation.

Incidentally, the examples of the use of the baseball bat you refer to are not atypical. No baseball is played in Scotland and we have virtually no exposure to the sport on television. Baseball bats typically serve only one purpose in this dark corner of the planet. They're also the weapon of choice among enforcers.

As for the good writing/bad writing thing, I think Oscar Wilde had it right: "There is no such thing as a moral or immoral book. Books are well written, or badly written, that is all."


  ----- Original Message -----
  From: Kerry J. Schooley
  Sent: Wednesday, August 30, 2006 5:08 PM
  Subject: Re: RARA-AVIS: Re: Name Your Poison

  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

  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,

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


[Non-text portions of this message have been removed]

RARA-AVIS home page:
  Yahoo! Groups Links

<*> To visit your group on the web, go to:

<*> To unsubscribe from this group, send an email to:

<*> Your use of Yahoo! Groups is subject to:

This archive was generated by hypermail 2b29 : 30 Aug 2006 EDT