I really wish people would get this. It’s not that difficult. It’s not rocket science. It’s not even math. Wait, rocket science is mainly math so ignore that. I’m talking about this:
When I read this, my first expression was something like:
Because seriously. SERIOUSLY. Wait, before I go off into my rant, let me point you to Sarah’s wonderful post where she makes several PERTINENT points and says smart things very smartly. I know this is very difficult to believe and no, there are no laws against it but reading? It’s an activity you do in isolation and your experience reading a book is YOUR OWN and no one can tell you that there is a correct way to read something and that you are doing it wrong.
Okay maybe your teacher may tell you that you’re doing it wrong but whatever, you only have to indulge them until the class is over. The thing that ticks me off about John Green’s tweet is the condescension dripping of it. Like, seriously. Like, I’m so hip I’m going to like, tell the same teenagers whom I think are like so smart that they don’t like know how to read. Why? Because they weren’t falling over themselves to laud the conclusion of what was possibly one of the most highly anticipated releases of the year.
Not for me, mind you. I read the first book and it didn’t gel with me so I passed on the sequels. I don’t care about the ending and I have nothing against Roth. Also, let me put it out there that people who threaten an author because of the ending? What’s WRONG WITH YOU GUYS? Go read some fanfiction and ship the alternate endings there!
I’ve been reading stuff about how the author has had anxiety problems etc. etc. and she should be treated gently because of all the issues she’s going through. And honestly, that sort of things leaves me befuddled. Call me cold, unfeeling and stone-hearted but an author’s personal life is none of my business. My business is with the finished product. I am interacting with THE BOOK and not the author. I do not owe the author anything except the money I paid for the book. It’s a business deal and yes, things do get murky because writing is an art but art is not marketed the way these books were. Art is not commercialized and art is – we will be here for a long while so let me just say that we’ll talk about that aspect later.
I know how difficult writing is. I’m writing my first novel (creative writing thesis) and it’s tough; it makes me cry, be emotional, zone out and just be an out and out mental case. You put a lot of yourself in a book you’re writing. You bleed sweat etc over it. You get my point. Anyone who writes knows that writing is not child’s play and anyone who says that it is is not a very good writer. However, just because it is difficult doesn’t mean that my readers owe it to me to love my book. I’ve had people read my books and completely miss the point that I thought was all but emblazoned on the page in big neon letters.
And you know what? That’s my fault. It is not the reader’s fault if they read something the way you, the author, did not want them to read. When I was reading The Hunger Games I was 100% sure who Katniss would end up with in the end simply because Collins prepared me for it. She set up the story and emotions in such a way that though the mystery was remained, readers were gently led to expect the inevitable relationship. So if people didn’t get what I wanted them to, it is either because a) I didn’t do as good job of writing the scene etc. as I thought I was doing or b) their experiences lead them experience that scene differently. If I wrote about a girl walking in the night and I intended it to be a non-threatening scene, I should imbue it with enough elements to make it seem so otherwise someone who is scared of the dark will read the scene and imagine a serial murderer to be lurking behind a tree somewhere close by. Know what I mean?
It is not just my opinion that reader responses are complex and there are several scholars who are smarter than me who have discussed reading in great detail. But what I can tell you is that almost all of them agreed that readers bring as much to the book as the authors do. In fact, some of the scholars maintain that authors matter not at all where reading is concerned and a conversation takes places strictly between the text and the reader. In other words, the novel is just pages covered with ink until readers give them life. Whether you agree with this or not, what matters is that when a person reads a book, the way the world looks like depends on him/her.
My point is, just because people are displeased with the ending of a book does not imply that they have entitlement issues and/or are twihards who cannot get over the fact that sometimes fictional reality sucks as much real reality. I would like it if authors did not continuously trivialize reader responses and reader experiences. I would freaking love it if certain readers understood that making death threats against authors is not right.
Surely Roth was prepared for the blow up following the release? Honestly, she did what she had to do but if I were her, I’d have disappeared from the internet until two months had passed after the release of the novel. But eh. That’s me.
Also, like, I want to say this: Teenagers and readers of other ages are not just minions over the internet to give egos the occasional (or daily, depends on your desire) stroke. They are real people and whether their opinions and reading experiences align with yours or not, their experiences are pertinent and should be awarded equal respect.