This year I want to discuss different aspects of writing and try to get my readers more involved in the blog. So look for something different here. I’ll try to post twice each month.
Whose Story, Whose Imagination?
Here’s something I found in The Palm Beach Post on Friday, Dec 9. It was entitled “Harry Potter and the Imagination Thief” and was written for the LA Times by Talya Meyers, a doctoral student at Stanford University. In examining the J. K. Rowling’s website, Pottermore, Ms. Meyers suggests that, although meant to be interactive, Rowling provides so much information about Potter’s world after the end of the books that those who visit the site may be disappointed to learn what they imagined might happen to Harry and his friends is not at all what Rowling says happens. Meyers contends that by telling us what Rowling sees as Harry’s future (her imagination) she steals what we the readers might have imagined. I’m extrapolating now, but I assume Meyers is saying that if Rowling had written another book with all this information in it, that might have been fine, a continuation of the Potter story, but instead Meyers says Rowling has added to what is already contained in the books and given us the Potter world beyond them. We are not free to imagine for ourselves what Potter’s life might become as he grows up, raises a family, and ages.
I wonder if this is why I usually don’t like a movie better than the book. The movie makes the book concrete, and what I’ve imagined reading the book is replaced by the movie’s take on the look of a character, the color of a house, the way the character delivers a line. This isn’t always true for me. I hear Tom Selleck’s voice each time I read a Jesse Stone novel by Robert Parker. That works for me.
So here’s my question. Where does the author’s imagination end and the reader’s begin? And should an author step in after the fact to assert what happens or what was really meant? Does the book once published become the readers’ or is it the writer’s? Perhaps authors can expect once their work is published to engage in a dialogue of imaginations between them and their readers. Pottermore might become this kind of place. The site is still in the testing stage, so perhaps we must wait and see. What do you think?