Butterflies had me searching tonight. First, for one obscure article on Margaret Laurence’s children’s fiction and then again when I encountered this word: lepidopterist. It seems Vladimir Nabokov knew butterflies well. Tonight as I search for more articles on Margaret Laurence, I’m wondering how much of a writer’s world does the reader need to know? How much does the reader need to know about what goes in to a novel or a poem to enjoy it/not enjoy it? Should there be more to the relationship of the reader/writer through the text? Like a word we don’t know, should we search for every detail to make the story complete?
Heh! Good questions, T.
I don’t think the reader needs to know anything about the writer in order to enjoy a body of work. When I first read Margaret Laurence I knew absolutely nothing about her. But my encounter with her, through The Diviners got me curious and led me to several rereads of much of her work and work that comments on her work. I don’t know that I’ll ever completely know Laurence or her work, don’t know that it’s possible or desireable, know only that I enjoy reading her work.
That said, the more I come to know about her, the deeper my understanding of what I perceive she is saying. But it’s my experience, coming to the page, that filters all she says that is the determining factor, isn’t it?
My experience with fiction is relational to what I’ve read previously, or so I think. It’s interesting to know so much about a writer when reading their fiction, and the assumptions people want to make about their work. Every experience is subjective to the writer and interpretation is key to writing the experience. I think that Laurence needed to define her own experinences again and again through her fictions. It adds to the dimension of her writing to see who she read, who she admired, and how her own life shaped her fiction. But I agree with you that this isn’t always necessary nor is it always helpful in reading fiction.
In fact, sometimes I think it can be detrimental to the enjoyment of fiction.
I think you’re right when you say it can be detrimental to the enjoyment of fiction, to know about the writer. There are a couple I’ve met who, well, whose work I’ve read but thoroughly disliked, not on the basis of the work, but on the basis of how I experienced the individuals.
Ain’t I the judgemental b|tch?