The Utilitarian wrote:But again, I have to take issue with this because we hold authors responsible for the content of their books. If the world as a whole really just took books for their content and divorced themselves from the author's intention or involvement at all I'd be more than happy to get on board with the ideas put forward here, but I can't stand the double standard that exists as a result of how things actually go. If a book seems to imply a really terrible message like "Slavery is ok!" are we really prepared to simply have the book sit on its own and condemn it, and not the author? I don't think so. I think that if such a book were to make its way into the mainstream, the author would be held just as accountable for the message of his book, whether or not he intended it.
I'm willing to hear a counter-point to this line of reasoning, but so far I haven't come across one.
Ahh, okay, this dance. Authorial intent is totally relevant (though still not necessarily all important
) if you're trying to use the book to make a statement about the author
. "Guys, T. F. Wheeler (randomly generated name ahoy) is all in favor of slavery!" is the kind of interpretation where it does become kindof relevant what the author could possibly have actually intended. But does anyone really do that when they're using a book to support their cause? Because it seems like an appeal-to-authority to an author
of all people isn't terribly convincing outside of the weight of their work. I mean, outside of writing a book, what's T.F. Wheeler done to make us care
what he thinks about anything? But who knows, I try not to associate too strongly with crazies.
At that stage, though, if there's actually a strong and valid reading of the book that does support something terrible, and the author is still alive, it would probably be a good move on their part to apologize for missing
it at the very least. I mean, accidentally giving idea-and-inspiration-fodder to people with terrible beliefs is pretty careless, if nothing else. Also, at this point you get into questions of subconscious intent that are just fun (What's a reader-conjured meaning, and what's a literary freudian slip?), so it's best to just accept that the book is problematic, say "my bad, didn't mean to do that, I'll be more careful", and move on.All of that said
, it's still totally irrelevant to what the book means
, once you stop trying to say things about the author. And personally, unless the author has actually done something other than write things, I don't much care about most authors as people
. I certainly don't read novels (graphic or otherwise) because I'm so interested
in the author's views and opinions
. Why should I be? Why would I put any degree of effort into trying to piece together and reverse engineer their political, moral, and social views from a story they wrote? Seems like a lot of effort to arrive at the opinions of a random dick with a word processor who I'll never meet. I can just go to Serious Business and read hundreds of those in plain fucking english
No, I read them for entertainment, and for the meaning(s) I see in the stories. Moreover, I'm pretty certain most other people don't care what the author thinks either, except insofar as they think authorial intent is a quick way to the "right answer" of a book's interpretation and meaning. "Answers on the back of the author's brain", and such. Because they like having firm answers to things, and literature...isn't really like that, and it makes them uncomfortable.
Which is understandable, but I'm not going to pretend it's valid.