Don’t ask me: I just work here

For anyone who’s read the second ‘Ruso’ book and fancies a little brain-stretching, there are some great discussion questions over at Readinggroupguides.com. (Be warned, though – there are some potential plot spoilers in there so if you don’t want to know, don’t look.)

All of which raises an interesting point.

‘If you can prove it from the text,’ my English teacher used to say, ‘Then it’s the right answer. Even if I don’t agree with it.’

The truth is that my responses to those questions might differ from those of a reader. The reader would probably be ‘right’. Not because I can’t remember the novel (not quite that scatty – yet) but because what I remember isn’t necessarily the novel other people have read.

Every book so far has had whole scenes that never made it into print. Part of the brain, however, refuses to realise that it’s too late to change anything now. My response to ‘why do you think X does Y’ is likely to be, ‘well, it might be Z but of course he could have been thinking about A, B, or C.’

Indeed he might, but you’d be hard pushed to find that anywhere in the text. A, B and C either got cut out in an earlier draft or I’ve only just thought of them.

At last I’m beginning to understand why my brother, who’s an academic, says that if you want to know what a text ‘means’, asking the author isn’t necessarily much help.

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