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Interpreting Fiction, songs and other creative works

I’ve a friend in a really awesome band. Her name’s Chantal and she’s in a group called the Lovebullies. She has this one song called Here Comes the Boy. This is a replica of a conversation we had once:

Me: Hey, you know that song? Here Comes the boy? What’s it about?
Chantal [pauses]: What do you think it’s about?
Me: well, I think it’s about this girl that’s in love with her best friend but her best friend is in love with this guy who treats her badly. But the first girl, the one that’s in love is like, he’ll never treat you as well as me.
Chantal: [silence]
Me: soooo, is that what it’s about?
Chantal: it’s whatever you feel it’s about.

I immediately was confused. I argued with her, “BUT WHAT’S IT ABOUT???” and she just kept saying that it was about whatever I thought it was about.

This FLOORED me. I was so befuddled. How could Chantal make this song, this art, and not want to tell me what it meant? It made me think a lot about my own writing and how when someone asks what my book is about, I want to go on and on and on and tell them EVERYTHING that EVER crossed my mind while writing.

That conversation really stuck with me. I think about it a lot when I read reviews/interpretations of songs, writing and other art. I makes me wonder what the original artist thinks of their own work.

I’ve read some essays on Jane Eyre [previously noted as my fave book ever] and how the character of Bertha Mason has MANY interpretations – she’s society’s view on sexuality in women, she’s Charlotte Bronte’s psyche trapped in the attack, she’s the representation of all women persecuted for their lifestyle.

But it makes me wonder if maybe she’s just a crazy lady in the attic. Or maybe she’s all of those things above and more including a crazy lady in the attic because Charlotte Bronte would say, like Chantal did, she’s whatever you think she is.

This also leads me to a post a saw on Tumblr and I wish I saved the link. If I recall correctly, an art class had been charged with art for the Great Gatsby. One of the pieces done showed Gatsby with no hands and the art teacher commented how this was so symbolic of him reaching for things that he lacks the tools to even grasp or touch. However, the artists in the class leaned over to one of his classmates and said something like, “Actually, I just can’t draw hands.”

So again, I wodner, when we interpret art, how much of ourselves are we projecting on the piece. Is that the function of art? To be what the interpreter wants or sees?

Joss Whedon reportedly said “All worthy work is open to interpretations the author did not intend. Art isn’t your pet — it’s your kid. It grows up and talks back to you.” I find I think about that statement a lot. With my book coming out [June 25! Another SHAMELESS PLUG!] it makes me wonder what people will think about it and how they may interpret scenes, dialogue and characterization. Or if they’ll just read it for fun and not look any deeper. How will I react?

Obviously, I don’t have any answers, but it all makes me think about music, writing, art and how we view those things and what we attribute to them.

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