So I finished Cat's Eye by Margaret Atwood the other day, and I have so many thoughts about it, I don't know where to start. Today I'll leave all the issues of womanhood, and talk about how I felt about the whole art thing.
The main character, Elaine, is a painter with repressed memories of childhood. It's fascinating to see how Atwood balances the child and the adult telling the story, back and forward in time. The child Elaine tells the reader all the betrayals the adult Elaine has repressed.
That which she can't remember shows up in her paintings, and while we, the readers, see the connection and remember their significance, Elaine does not.
Not only does Elaine not remember the significance of what she paints, but those who view her paintings wildly misinterpret them. Her scathing hatred of Mrs. Smeath, for example, shows up on the canvas as unflattering portraits of the woman, while the viewers tend to regard them as compassion for the normal woman.
Because I can no longer control these paintings, or tell them what to mean. Whatever energy they have came out of me. I'm what's left over.
Personally, I believe misinterpretation is not so much misinterpretation as it is a valid interpretation. At least half the joy of art is what a reader gets from it, no matter what the writer meant.
I admire writers who leave room in their stories for a reader's interpretation. It's like a journey we get to take together, hand in hand, rather than a guided tour.
I don't think I leave enough room.
I've never heard from an irate reader. I've never incited a scathing reaction from a reader, someone so angry they would take back the time spent reading my story.
I think I write too simplistically. Maybe I overwrite. Maybe I have no depth. I don't know.
I don't know: I write that a lot, don't I?
I know I do work very hard to make the ending extremely clear, with every single tiny T crossed. You would be amazed at how readers want to know the ending exactly, even when you're certain you've explained it precisely and clearly. Even when it says right there.
But disregarding the ending, do you leave room for a reader's interpretation? Do you try to be as clear as possible? Do you try to leave no room for misinterpretation? How do you feel about this, as a reader? As a writer?
What are your thoughts?
PS: Thanksgiving felt so good this year, that I decided I would write one thing I was grateful for every time I blog. So...
Today I am grateful for cats that curl up next to me all night long.