Rita Dove asserts that fiction leads a reader into places and lives to which she would otherwise have no other access. We’ve all found ourselves with new perspectives by reading about the imaginary lives of others, set in places we’ve never been, even if they aren’t on this planet. The fictional world used to seem safe.
Yet, I’ve recently been made to doubt whether that’s so. A reader of my novel wrote to say he wished it could be read by anyone contemplating marriage. He felt the story had a broader message than the one I’d had in mind. His observation reminds me of a couple of a saying about bread cast upon the waters: We can’t know whether it will come back sandwiches.
The online medium exposes the essayist in a way more hazardous than fiction. Is it possible to write anything from a position without an immediate reaction that won’t give away information of obiter dicta significance. How can an essayist or a novelist know what these hints and omissions might signify to the reader? In a society conjured by an Orwell or Huxley, none would be immune from consequences of this facet of writing. I find when putting down some point I want to present, that either it's turned into a different point altogether, or that it has a dimension that hadn't entered my mind until the words are on the screen.
Yet we know that writers would continue to spring up like mushrooms on golf course greens in spite of the consequences. If a writer suspects there’s a reader out there, there’s no way to quell the urge to verbalize for that essential audience.
With careful consideration, one hopes to make that offering interesting, informative, exciting, amusing, and even insightful. The workshop admonition to “write for yourself” is nonsense. We write to be read. We can’t escape the reality.
But what if we’ve left a significant idea undeveloped or even unmentioned? Someone will spot it. If our anonymous reader detects some personal foible or talent or suspect idea in our words, not just for her, but for us too — that's serendipity.
Joan L. Cannon likes to use her middle initial because so few of her maiden namesakes are left (Huguenot LaPrades). She's a retired teacher, retail manager, and part-time handy-person for the selectmen of her Connecticut town, library trustee and aspiring writer.
From childhood there's been toss-ups for her avocations among reading, riding horses, painting, writing, and homemaking. She's happy to be mostly retired with her husband of over half a century. Retired turns out to be a relative term since there's always so much labor needed for so many good causes. Email Joan: jlcannon28 (at) att.net