Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Subjective is Not a Dirty Word

What do you suppose you'd call it when you say something for your own benefit as much as for whomever you're talking to? Not 'preaching to the choir,' surely. Preaching to the pastor? Or maybe just 'talking to yourself"...

Right. Anyway. Today I'm talking to my choir-pastor self, as well as to you, so I hope one of us gets something out of it.

I'm a big fan of quotes. I love the sources quotes come from, too, but there's something about isolating a little snippet of wisdom or humor or profoundness from the midst of a work I love that really gives me a thrill. (I know... I'm pretty easy to thrill. Skydiving would probably kill me.) This is undoubtedly the reason I bumbled my way into a side-business based exclusively on the painting of quotes upon ceramic coffee mugs. (Incidentally, you could win one of my mugs if you enter the contest Freelance Writing Jobs is holding for the next two days. Just go to this link, and read and follow the instructions posted.)

An unexpected but surprisingly rewarding source for new quotes has, for me, been Pinterest. Today I discovered this one:


Edmund Wilson was a literary critic and writer in the 1920's, and influenced a lot of important writing minds. And I think his statement really drives home the reality of, not just the subjective nature of the publishing industry, but that of reading itself. Everyone who has ever submitted anything to anyone has probably read the words, "Given how subjective this business is," which can very quickly turn into one of the nastiest sentences in the English language. But it really shouldn't be. Because what it means is, "Just because I didn't love it does not mean that someone else won't." Or, "Keep sending this out, because someone out there will be a perfect fit for it."

I have, on several occasions, recommended a book to a friend or family member with the highest praise imaginable, only to have said friend or family member read--and positively hate--the book I loved. I invariably become hurt and defensive when I hear their reactions, because, to me, the book is like a child who can do no wrong. If I loved it, why on earth didn't you?

Well. Because we're different people. Because reading is subjective. And because "no two persons ever read the same book."

And what a relief that is! As much as we may be inclined to gnash our teeth at the words "subjective business," I think we really ought to be rejoicing. Because that means there is still hope. Even though it would be wonderful to write things that everyone in the world would adore, the fact is that people are too different for that kind of a miracle to be possible.

As Dumbledore tells Hagrid in Goblet of Fire, "Really Hagrid, if you are holding out for universal popularity, I'm afraid you will be in this cabin for a very long time."

Mind-boggling as it is, there are even people on this earth who don't like Harry Potter. And if that doesn't drive home Wilson's point, I don't know what will.

Thoughts? This didn't turn out quite as flippant and lighthearted as I meant it to, but what can you do? Maybe I'll devote my next post to a series of haikus enumerating the glories of David Tennant's freckles.


  1. I think you see it more with music than books, probably because everyone listens to music and not everyone reads. Go to the web sites where people try to figure out what the lyrics of certain songs mean. My god, I don't even know how they get what they get out of some songs. Take the currently popular song by the Black Keys: Gold On The Ceiling. According to various people on the Internet it is about sex addiction, drug addiction, and the woes of parenthood. And here I thought it was about the woes of fame. Everyone applies their own lives to whatever poetic words they encounter, as well. I like to read books about strong female characters who are defiant because that's what I dream of being. Brave, defiant for the sake of my beliefs, and self sufficient. So when I come across a female character that is more victim than hero I roll my eyes and move on. Conversely, a friend of mine sees books with "manly women" as being too feminist and degrading to men because many times the males in these books are sneaky, malevolent, weak, or too bull headed to see reason... Or they don't matter at all.

  2. I totally agree. It's kind of amazing, isn't it, that such vastly different opinions and viewpoints can exist where the same piece of art is concerned? But I guess that's what makes us all individuals, isn't it--and also what makes art *art*. Its meaning and value are up for debate! Thanks for sharing, Lauren. I'm with you on book tastes, by the way. :) Although I do like a good male protagonist, too.

  3. I get tired of that phrase. I understand it, and many writers need to hear it, but at the same time, I prefer "No thanks" more than anything else.

    But, there again is that subjectivity in life :)

  4. I came over here from Ana Mardoll's blog. Great post and something I think we all know, yet find difficult to acknowledge when someone disagrees with our taste. Also, I love, love, love your mugs! (Do more Doctor Who ones!)

  5. Hi Storiteller! Thanks for visiting! I'm glad you came by. :) And you'll be pleased to know that I have a whole load of Doctor Who mugs in the queue to go up this week! One can never have enough Doctor Who...

  6. Awwwsome, girl. Truly awwwsome. Unruly-truly-awwwsome HeeHee Actually, I'd looove to RITE with you in the Great Beyond in a BIG-OL library by ourselves for as long as it takes - God can do anythn, dear, even produce a simple novel (withe printing press and all). And just think, girl, how #@!!☆ wonderFULL, breathtaking, extravagant, awwwsome to have the length and breadth of E T E R N I T Y... to RITE about worlds you've never seen, animals, buggs, people, angels, going beeeyond thot, Ms Utterly-Gorgeous-Knockout. Now, wanna wiseabove to help a 'Plethora Of Wurdz' [POW!] which are look'n for a new home in your novel?? Yay!

    Q: Can anyone tell me the difference between K2 and IQ? A: Nthn. In Seventh-Heaven, we gitt'm both for eternity HawrHawr Need a few more thots, ideers, wild wurdz or ironclad iconoclasms? Voila!!

    VERBUM SAT SAPIENTI: As an ex-writer of the sassy, savvy, schizophenia we all go through in this lifelong demise, I just wanna help U.S. git past the whorizontal more!ass! we're in (Latin: words to [the] wise)...

    "This finite existence is only a test, son," God Almighty told me in my coma. "Far beyond thy earthly tempest is where you'll find tangible, corpulent eloquence". Lemme tella youse without d'New Joisey accent...

    I actually saw Seventh-Heaven when we died: you couldn't GET! any moe curly, party-hardy-endorphins, extravagantly-surplus-lush Upstairs (in [the] end without end -Saint Augustine) when my beautifull, brilliant, bombastic girly passed-away due to those wry, sardonic satires.

    "Those who are wise will shine as brightly as the expanse of the Heavens, and those who have instructed many in uprightousness as bright as stars for all eternity" -Daniel 12:3, NJB

    Here's also what the prolific, exquisite GODy sed: 'the more you shall honor Me, the more I shall bless you' -the Infant Jesus of Prague.

    Go gitt'm, girl. You're incredible. See you Upstairs. I won't be joining'm in the nasty Abyss where Isis prowls
    PS Need summore unique, uncivilized, useless names? Lemme gonna gitcha started, brudda:

    Oak Woods, Franky Sparks, Athena Noble, Autumn Rose, Faith Bishop, Dolly Martin, Willow Rhodes, Cocoa Major, Roman Stone, Bullwark Burnhart, Magnus Wilde, Kardiak Arrest, Will Wright, Goldy Silvers, Penelope Summers, Sophie Sharp, Violet Snow, Lizzy Roach, BoxxaRoxx, Aunty Dotey, Romero Stark, Zacharia Neptoo, Mercurio Morrissey, Fritz & Felix Franz, Victor Payne, Isabella Silverstein, Mercedes Kennedy, Redding Rust, Phoenix Martini, Ivy Squire, Sauer Wolfe, Yankee Cooky, -blessed b9 ...shake well B4 use!

    God blessa youse
    -Fr. Sarducci, ol SNL