Think Of The Author

Some people read the ends of books before the beginnings.

Until recently, I'd thought this was a myth. Truly. I'd heard of it but thought it limited to people who don't read much, or often. People who read more for looks and image than for any actual enjoyment or respect of literature.

Apparently this is not the case. Decent, self-respecting, smart readers actually do this. It bothered me a lot to make this discovery, and I couldn't figure out why. Why should one reader care how another reader reads? Literature is art. People have a right to their own methods of experiencing art.

Ah, one reader shouldn't bother with how another reader reads. But a writer? Perhaps that is a different story {no pun intended}.

When a painter, sculptor, or mixed-media artist is given the opportunity to show his pieces in a gallery, he makes a lot of decisions about how the art will be viewed. This angle, that angle. This lighting, that lighting. This painting first, then that one. That sculpture last. A part of the art itself is its display, the manipulation of how it will be experienced by the viewer.

A writer does the same thing. This scene first, then that one. This character introduced here and not before. This lie told here, this misdirection here. An author knows she can't really surprise you; after all, on the whole, most books are not books if the characters don't fall in love or triumph over the villain in the end. But she wants to try.

An artist does not simply paint a collection of pictures, and a writer does not simply scrawl a story. The paintings must be displayed. The story must be the right blend of hidden {but obvious} truths, misdirections, and points that seem to be of no return. That is the truest work of a writer; I know I haven't attained the talent here that I desire. {Megan Whalen Turner is phenomenal at this sort of thing. Eva Ibbotson and occasionally Ted Dekker, as well.}

Everyone has a right, of course, to experience art how they choose. You can ignore the arrows and traverse the gallery backwards. But as you do, think of the artist. Think of the hours spent arranging the room just so, the paintings hung at that particular angle so that you don't see them until you've turned the corner. Think of the tears shed by hapless assistants who didn't understand his vision for the space. Think of the money spent on a particular kind of track lighting only found in Sweden.

Do you have a right to read the end of a book first? Of course. Absolutely. It is a free country, and, even if it wasn't, it is art. Art is about experience; art does not adhere to rules.

But when you do, think of the author. The author who spent hours in agony, staring at a screen and knowing that it wasn't quite right, that something was too obvious--or too hidden. The author who studied the works of other authors, noting the twists they created and how they did it and how it could be done to fit the author's particular style. Think of the author who did her best to craft a book, and who wrote it intending for it to be read from beginning to end.

Dessert may be the best part of the meal, but you wouldn't dare insult a chef by insisting he replace your appetizer with Creme Brulee.

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