My very good friend, who we will call S, is a big fan of writer A. S has read and enjoyed everything A ever wrote. She finds his stories thought provoking and insightful. She feels a connection with his characters, and she thinks A is one of the best writers ever. I find his stories to be shallow, impractical, and puerile. I think his characters are two dimensional and puppet like, in that they do things merely to further the plot and not from any actual motivation.
So which of us is right?
As much as I’d like to say I’m right, I must add that A is considered to have been one of the “Big Names” in SF. He’s dead, now. So, many people would say I’m the one that is wrong. The truth is we’re both right.
What? How can that be?
Reading is a gestalt process. First there is the writer, they bring to the story what they know, what they believe, how they perceive the world and its workings, the people they’ve met, the things they’ve done, how they feel, etc. They try to put the story down on paper (or, more usually these days, in the computer) as they see it in their mind. Then along comes the reader, who brings all that they know, have lived, believe, feel, etc. The story is filtered through that reader’s perceptions to create the “story” in their mind.
If there is a major disconnect between the writer’s perceptions and the reader’s perceptions the story won’t find a happy home in that reader’s mind. Doesn’t mean the writer is an idiot. Doesn’t mean the reader is one of the unwashed that wouldn’t recognize genius if it stomped on them.
While we are all in many ways the same, we are also very different. Stories that touch one heart will leave another cold. Characters that come alive for person S are two-dimensional puppets for R. Doesn’t mean that one is right and the other wrong. We’re both right, and we’re both wrong.
I allow that S truly likes A. She is willing to forgive me for hating almost everything that A wrote. I did like his autobiography. Apparently he was only a fictional jerk, in real life he was a very nice guy. Too bad he’s dead.
So if you find something or some writer you don’t like, let it go and don’t read that (them) any more. If you find something or some writer you do like, don’t be offended if not everyone agrees with you. Agree to disagree, and keep looking for more good stuff.
And if you find anything good, let me know. I’m always looking for more good stuff.
I’ve already discovered Terry Pratchett, and if you haven’t you should.