When I set out to write posts on this blog, I hoped to point to things that cause me to wonder, to reflect, in hopes that they might do the same for you. Publicizing my writing was not my intent. But something I found yesterday did make me wonder and reflect. And the fact that it relates to my most recent publication is less the subject here than are the thoughts it brought to mind. Here’s a link to what I found. It’s the review in Kirkus Reviews of my recently published collection of short stories, Nowhere Near. https://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/teddy-jones/nowhere-near/
If you read it, you’ll see that it was easy for me to accept that as a positive review from a reputable source. Great!
Then the elation I felt gave way to reflection. It’s easy to believe a positive review and disregard a negative one. That’s a way to stay happy. I reread the review. Although it’s positive, I can see that this reviewer (reader) took away meanings from some of the stories that differed with mine. Reflecting further, questions came to mind. Is it ever possible for me to convey my intention in writing any fiction what prompted me to create the characters and situations that become the story? Or is it only in the mind of the reader that the “meaning” occurs. And what prompts a reader to extract anything similar to the thought or feeling that prompted the writer to create that work (those characters, their situations) in the first place? Does it matter that there’s sometimes little, if any, congruence between what the writer hoped and what the reader takes away? I wonder. Surely there can be many meanings, not only a single one. In the process of writing, did I learn something about the characters and their situations that changed the “meaning” (meanings) for me? Those are questions that will stay with me, even in light of this review that brightened my day because its tone as well as the overall comments suggested the reader saw the stories as valuable in some way.
A larger question, beyond those about readers and what is written, relates to human communication in general. It’s this–is there a way to know whether we’ve ever communicated exactly what we intend? The only inkling I have about an answer is an old answer about communication–the exchange of meaning requires patience and both delivering and receiving messages. Seeking a response that tells me what you understand/feel/think about what I say or write is the beginning of knowing whether meaning/intention has been shared or if it has only been written or spoken in a vacuum. So now I ask, what are your thoughts about the nature of communication between a writer of fiction and those who read it? And on a grander scale, are you ever fully satisfied with your own communication, either in written or oral interchange?
I’d love to receive a message from you.