I'm James Maxey, the author of numerous novels of fantasy and science fiction. I use this site to discuss a wide range of topics, with a heavy emphasis on cranky, uninformed rants about politics and religion and other topics that polite people attempt to avoid. For anyone just wanting to read about my books, I maintain a second blog, The Prophet and the Dragon, where I keep the focus solely on my fiction. I also have a webpage where both blogs stream, with more information about all my books, at jamesmaxey.net.


Monday, December 08, 2008

A Curious Art

I've been thinking today about the curious disconnect that exists between the act of producing writing and the act of consuming it. Artists of other media have the potential to watch their art being consumed. A singer can look out on the audience as she sings. A painter can stand in the gallery as people look at his paintings. A movie director can sit in the movie theatre and see if the audience is laughing or crying where he intended.

While a writer can read his work out loud, for the most part this is just a variant of acting; he's reading a script, and the success of the reading will depend not just on the words but tone, inflection and body language.

But the one thing a writer would almost never have the chance to do is to watch someone sitting silently reading his book. I suppose it could happen every now and then by chance that a famous author might be on a plane and spot someone reading their latest best seller. But, even then, reading is such a silent, internal process... how does the writer know what the reader is seeing and hearing as the pages turn?

Each story we write is only a message in a bottle. We will never know where it may wash ashore.


Whetam Gnauckweirst said...

I remember reading about Stephen King describing the first time he encountered someone reading one of his books. It was back, not long after the publication of Carrie, he was on a plane and walking back to his seat from the rest room, he saw a woman reading Carrie. Without introducing himself as the author, he casually asked her what she thought of the book. The woman apparently looked at him and said, "It's a piece of shit."

Being a writer is more a sentence than a calling. I never thought about it, though, from the perspective you mention in your post. Sure enough, it's a lonely thing being a writer.

James Maxey said...

Thanks for the cautionary tale. If I ever see anyone reading one of my books in public, I'll be satisfied with the mere sighting and avoid the temptation to ask for an opinion.