Wednesday, May 21, 2008

my books should mean nothing to me and everything to the reader

yeah, but Mike, you HATE THE READER.
Do I?
Well hasn't somebody been taking notes like a good little marketing donkey?

Well, listen to this. I hope no interviewers start asking me, "Mike, what are your books supposed to be saying about your view of the literary world, or the financial world, or the moral world or the religious world? Where's your perspective?"

I don't need one. That's what all the fools who read Hertzan Chimera aka Mike Philbin always forget. When I write, I write to theme and task ONLY. I don't exist. The reader doesn't exist. Yes, I hate the reader, in that he/she is a viral entity that not only feeds off but thinks it can affect anything about the way I look at the world or depict it in my crazy-adult ways.

When I say that 'my books should mean nothing to me and everything to the reader' I'm stressing the importance of the private journey. It's something that came naturally when I was an artist of psycho-figurative life-size oil paintings in the 80's and 90's. During the openings for these one-man shows, clients would come up to me and tell me the story of the painting as they saw it, what it meant to them. They were wrong, I don't even know what most of those (destroyed) paintings ever meant, but the viewer inserted him/herself into the picture.

There have been many a writer/artist/composer whose MOST MEMORABLE work is the work they themselves didn't love the most. I could do a little more research into this but my vague belief is enough to keep me going on this. I mean, I'll be adamant here and say I will not do the research for you guys, the evidence is all about you. You just have to look. Read enough biographies or letters from 'the stars of the imaginational medium' and you'll see that their favourite piece paled into comparison with their most famous piece. There seems no point in thinking you've just completed 'your most amazing book yet' if it doesn't resonate with the reader on some personal level ... and by this I don't mean, it looks a lot like the last book I read in that vein and I HATE to change my eye-diet.

What I'm saying is you can never second-guess the reader - he's a fucking mystery. What I'm also saying is, yes, you might enjoy what you're writing. To put the passion into the theme/task, you have to. But the book that means EVERYTHING to the read can't mean the same to the writer. It's impossible. If we linearly extrapolate to infinity we find the the more a book has meaning to a reader the less it can have meaning to the writer. The personal journey ensures that the mutual meaning is stretched to a one-dimensional extremeness.

Therefore, though we might think what we write is good (though it's mostly not) we can't expect a book that has meaning to the reader to have any meaning to us. We're just the conveyors of the message. It's the reader who makes something of the books we write. Their own appraisal of your work will be its undoing or its journey into history.

I hope my Silverthought books "Bukkakeworld" and "Planet of the Owls" - due in trade paperback, July 2008 - can find more meaning in the reader than they do to this writer because that's the real mark of MASS MARKET penetration.

UPDATE: this rant has barely been up a day and OUTSIDER WRITERS has asked permission to host this post on their subversive literature site. I gave them permission and it's live already - you can vote for it and leave a comment. Join the non-mainstream debate, fuckers.


Pat said...

Hey, Mike,

I went to the "Outside Writers" site in the hope of exploring a lot more about your post, but, nah, not much exploration there.

So now I'm sitting here examining statements like "If we linearly extrapolate to infinity we find the the more a book has meaning to a reader the less it can have meaning to the writer. The personal journey ensures that the mutual meaning is stretched to a one-dimensional extremeness." Art/literature through the physicist's or mathematician's eye? I can't help but want to examine a statement like that. Most fun I've had this evening :)

I agree and have witnessed countless authors who moan and groan about how that poem or that story keeps getting reprinted and they never even liked it. Yet, the ones they love, go unnoticed. So, you DO have something here. I hadn't thought about why that's the case. So ... yeah, I've got to spend more time with what you've said here, and wish some of the others would have too.

You never let me down when I want to find something interesting.


Pat said...


You know what just happened? I'd been working on a short story--it was new; I wasn't sure where it was going; the characters ran it; I was involved, unsure, curious, puzzled, and it ended and some small insights came to me. Okay, all good. Then I got feedback and realized that there were things missing in it for others, things they wouldn't understand given the background I know; I revised some; I added three pages to the ending; I rounded out and clarified. And now? It bores me. Curiosity has been killed. I know more than I want. There's no reason for it anymore. Is this the stage at which it becomes accessible for others? (Or did I just really mess up the thing?)

Just still have what you said playing in my head.

Mike Philbin said...

remember, you've also not gotta take advice from a reader (those things'll kill your career)


but, yes, it's a delicate balance, I've just come back off my hols and have been thinking of ways to make my newest book ONE OF US resonate even less with the writer (me) and even more with the reader (you). My technique involves the tricks pulled by many so-called spiritualists.

Should be fun.