|Image courtesy of Sam Mulqueen|
I live in two worlds.
The Academic World is my job. The Academic World likes to analyze and pick apart and dissect literature pieces. The see symbolism in the simplest sentence. They find meaning in the smallest bit of dialogue. They even invent theories in order to help them see these bits of meaning in literature.
The World of the Author is my hobby (or "jobby" as my mother in law calls it). The World of the Author likes to write. They like to make meaningful characters. They like to make powerful plots and delicious dialogue. They like to write, write, write, then edit, edit, edit.
These worlds are only vaguely aware of each other. The Academic World knows that the author exists, somewhere in the depth of the books they analyze. The World of the Author knows the academic exists, and some even write their novels to please the academic over the Reader.
But somehow, as the worlds move in their little microcosms, they clash.
The Academic Wold likes to pretend it's full of really smart people, so they use big words and complex, made up theories to make their existence mean something. They don't like to be told their theories are incorrect, so when someone has the guts to point out an incorrect theory, the academic makes a new theory to fix the old one. Or sometimes they make a theory to make the other person's objection illegitimate.
This is especially common in the Modern Academic World. Theories like Deconstructivism (breaking down novels into their component parts and ripping everything to oblivion.) Narratology (taking popular words like "story" and changing it to "fabula" and basically trying to make the story into a math problem) or The Author is Dead (which suggests that the author's intentions in writing the story is completely unimportant to the reader's interpretation, which basically gives the reader the ability to analyze the novel however they want without thinking about what the author intended) thrive in this world.
The World of the Author fought over these strange interpretations. They fought with the Academics. They fought with their publishers. They fought with themselves.
The fight with themselves created warring factions.
So now we have a dilemma. We have clashing worlds.
We have two types of novels.
The first type is the novel written for symbolism and metaphor first, and story second. It's the kind of novel written specifically for the academic. Novels that have an "agenda" if you will. They are trying to prove a point, make a statement, make you think, but rarely are they trying to tell a story. Such novels include:
- The Lord of the Flies
- The Great Gatsby
- Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?
- The Stranger
- The Thin Red Line
- Pretty much anything you were supposed to read in high school.
Typically, the novels are so heavy set in symbolism and metaphor that it's really hard to get into the story. Every new piece of symbolism makes you think OUTSIDE the story, and therefore it's impossible to stay IN the story. It draws you away from plot. These are the Naked Emperors.
The second type of novel is written for story first and symbolism second. These are novels written specifically for readers. For people that love a good story. For those who read for character development, plot, good dialogue, and good character voice. It's for those who read to get lost in a new world. Such novels include:
- Jurassic Park
- Patriot Games
- Catch 22
- The Testing
- Twilight (ugh)
- The Enchanted Forest Chronicles
- Pretty much anything you've read by your own choice and not by your English teacher's insistence.
The first set of books are the kind of books that English professors love to talk about, but don't always recognize as Naked Emperors.
The second set of books is for those who just love to read and aren't looking for a real thought provoker. (Though one could argue that any of these books could have deeper meaning. The deeper meaning just doesn't take the place of the story).
So how do we stop these warring factions? How do we stop the hate between Academics and Authors? Symbolism books and Story books?
Some magic books cross both into the World of the Author and the Academic World and make everyone happy. These are usually books that start as Story First/Symbolism Second, but end up with major and important symbolism anyway. It's the kind of story where the symbolism doesn't take away from the story - it makes it BETTER. Such stories include:
- The Lord of the Rings
- The Chronicles of Narnia
- The Hunger Games
- Of Mice and Men
- The Summer King Chronicles
- Harry Potter
- Their Eyes were Watching God
- Pretty much anything your English teacher insisted you read, but you still read by your own choice because you LIKED it.
These are the novels of Crossing Worlds. These are the novels you aren't afraid to tell your author friends AND your academic friends that you read it. These are the novels where you can read it for fun one week and write a great academic paper about it the next week.
These are the novels that keep me safe in both worlds. So while the Academic World and the World of the Author don't always see eye to eye, they can agree that this is good literature.
These are the books that, as authors ourselves, we should strive for.
What books do you consider magic books?