Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Finding more in a book than the author intended

Commenting on novelists, C. S. Lewis writes,

He will find reviewers, both favourable and hostile, reading into his stories all manner of allegorical meanings which he never intended.  (Some of the allegories thus imposed on my own books have been so ingenious and interesting that I often wish I had thought of them myself.)*

Wendell Berry is not so charitable.  One finds this at the beginning of his novel, Jayber Crow:

NOTICE
Persons attempting to find a “text” in this book will be prosecuted; persons attempting to find a “subtext” in it will be banished; persons attempting to explain, interpret, explicate, analyze, deconstruct or otherwise “understand” it will be exiled to a desert island in the company only of other explainers.
BY ORDER OF THE AUTHOR

Googling for the Jayber Crow notice, I came cross this notice of Mark Twain's at the beginning of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn:

NOTICE
PERSONS attempting to find a motive in this narrative will be prosecuted; persons attempting to find a moral in it will be banished; persons attempting to find a plot in it will be shot.
BY ORDER OF THE AUTHOR,
Per G.G., Chief of Ordnance.

Perhaps not all reviewers are as smart as they seem.  Perhaps all that's meant to be gotten from some good stories is a good story.

*The C. S. Lewis quote comes from Reflections on the Psalms, ch. X.

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