Thursday, November 30, 2017

It's a Mosh Pit Out There

Zestful Blog Post #240

Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, in which arrogance and principle collide and tango, can be viewed as an exhilarating love story, or as a biting expose of the class system in Georgian England.

William Golding’s Lord of the Flies, which follows a group of shipwrecked boys and their attempts to govern themselves, can be interpreted as a slam against testosterone or a celebration of feral freedom.

J.D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye, with its sensitive, bungling, iconic teen protagonist, can be viewed as an urban coming-of-age story, or an account of a psychotic breakdown.

Holden's beloved Central Park. Is it a jungle out there?
[photo by ES]

David Mamet’s play Glengarry Glen Ross, with its band of cutthroat real estate salesmen, can be read as a scathing indictment of capitalism—or as an unsentimental endorsement of social Darwinism. (Lord of the Flies for grownups?)

Muriel Spark’s The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, featuring a charismatic schoolteacher, can be pronounced a story of a foolish drama queen, or a celebration of a visionary ahead of her time.

You understand. Portrait of an idiot—or portrait of a hero? A shallow story—or a deep one? Indictment or endorsement?

The takeaway for a writer who seeks a following is simply this: You’re throwing your work into the mosh pit of public opinion, so best be prepared to accept whatever points of view your readers bring to your work. You might be caught by surprise at what honest, perceptive readers throw at you. And then of course there are the dim, mean readers and their interpretations too. This is our world. If you believe in your work, you’ll be all right. Carry on.

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  1. I was very surprised once to be called a racist and a misogynist by a reader of my humor column for lawyers. I was bending over backwards to include vignettes from courtroom mishaps that reflected diversity instead of pretending that all lawyers are white and male. Did my attempt backfire? Or is it simply very difficult to find jokes that please all audiences? Your blog makes me feel better about what happened!!

    1. Oh, yeah, Pam, I relate. At some point you just have to figure, ya can't win 'em all and move on. But it does make you wonder.


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