Who’s the Medium now?

Last weekend a long-standing friend and I re-wove a fascinating set of threads from a once shimmering and strong connection that had been somewhat out of repair. Also that weekend, over brunch, she told my husband and me that she cannot enjoy art from creators she knows to be jerks.

I got a bit wistful pondering the vast expanse of good, important stories from which she cuts herself off by this judgment. I have all sorts of follow-up questions I have not yet put to her:

  • When you are intrigued by a book, must you check the author’s credentials first?
  • How do mythological frameworks play into this? (e.g. If there is no single obvious source for Orpheus‘s story, but you happen to believe classical Greek culture was depraved, is that entire archetype invalidated? Furthermore, would Greek culture invalidate Tennessee Williams’s Orpheus Descending, or is that enough a new work of art that its validity depends only on Williams‘s predelictions?)

I did ask one follow-up question first: “Does this also apply to non-fiction?” I’ll get back to the part of the conversation that flowed from that bit in future posts.

It took only one nap before I realized that my friend’s x-ray vision through a work of art into its creator (and all the various axes s/he grinds) can only be the product of a personal paradigm of art, stories and reality differing significantly from mine. To make a long story short (too late), I imagine she must see a story (in particular, but also other artistic expressions) as a medium through which an author communicates with the audience(s). Yet it’s very common particularly for authors of fiction to describe stories and/or individual characters as compelling the author to express them one way instead of another. I believe them. In my paradigm, generally, the author is the medium through which the story communicates with the audience(s).

Of course, in actuality it’s almost always a big knotty combination of author and story using each other. But in my experience, a good story feels inevitable, whether or not it happened (or could happen, or could have happened) in this physical universe in which I live.

And for you?


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