Friday, March 10, 2017

A creative partnership

Ruta Sepetys
When historical novelist Ruta Sepetys spoke a few days ago at Largo Library, she said some things about readers and writers that seem worth a comment.

Readers, she said, "tell you what your book is about." Her novels, including Salt to the Sea, have been translated into a variety of languages, and when she goes on a book tour, it takes her to several different countries. Wherever she goes, she said, readers see her books differently. What they are about in one place, is not what they are about somewhere else.

Each reader, in fact, no matter where he or she may live, reads something different in a book. "The reader is always right," Sepetys said.

I have always been a bit skeptical about the phrase, "The customer is always right." When I am the customer, I know I am not always right. I doubt that other customers are always right either. Readers are another matter, however. When you read a book, your opinion is the only one that matters. What you think it is about is what it is about. The author's opinion is just the author's opinion, no better than yours. The same is true of book critics and reviewers, whose opinions may be worth reading, but that doesn't make them anything other than their own opinions.

Writers, she said, are in a "creative partnership" with readers. As in any good partnership, both partners need the other. Writers need someone to read their books. Readers need someone to write them. Beyond that, however, is the creative part of that partnership in which writers and readers together determine the value and meaning of a book.

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