Thursday, August 14, 2003

Brennen writes, in the midst of a wonderfully mood-invoking post:

i suppose airports are amazing things, in their own way
signature elements of our civilization, ca. 2003

(Hmmm. Brennen’s way is better; I should include quotes in a <div> tag. It just feels right.)

I don’t know that airports are signature elements of our civilization, if we take that phrase to mean a thing highly representative of a culture.

Airports are designed for maximum throughput. They encourage you to pick up your party, then leave now please. The seats aren’t meant to be comfortable for long periods; just for that first forty-five minutes you spend waiting for your flight. Most of the food is of the genus fast.

Regarding the structural architecture – dim stripes of color ribboned along the walls, Gibson-esque racks of flickering monitors, incredibly plain carpets, occasional massive windows – I suppose that that is pretty representative of our culture. Everything’s efficient, computerized, and oh so achingly straight.

(Side thought: It’d be fascinating to write a science fiction story contrasting our culture’s dedication to straight lines with another culture’s dedication to, say, curves.)

So, some elements of airports are designed in ways that don’t make those airports signatures of our civilization. But they certainly reflect our civilization in many strong ways.

…And I have a little difficulty writing an entry like this, because I feel like I’m dissecting a throw-away phrase. I dislike nitpicking.

On the other hand, one important aspect of writing is recognition of the publicity of one’s words. Words have meaning. When words are put out in public, the public takes those words as they are.

Picture this: a writer submits a short story for peer critiquing. One of the reviewers explains his interpretation of the events. The writer replies, “Well, I didn’t mean it that way,” and continues to defend the writer’s interpretation as the right one.

This is wrong-headed. No matter what the writer meant, the reviewer came up with his or her own interpretation. That was the reader’s interpretation. His/her interpretation cannot be wrong, because that’s the interpretation s/he got from the writing.

Now, individual readers sometimes get confused and come up with an interpretation that’s radically different from most people’s interpretations. They may totally miss the point of the story. And that’s unfortunate, but it’s not what I’m talking about.

I’m talking about writers who try to correct other peoples’ interpretations of their story. There needs to be great humility on the part of those authors.

My advice? If someone tells you what they think about a story, simply accept it. Acknowledge it. Correct factual misunderstandings, but if someone has a different view of your characters than you have, don’t try to change them.

Which is a long-winded way of saying that public writing will be read by other people, and they will read it and try to understand and internalize it. So, if you write something that other people will read, accept the fact that your words may sound differently in their ears.

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