Thursday, June 26, 2008

With great print runs comes great responsibility

I wasn't going to blog today except to say that I'm leaving for ALA tomorrow and won't be around for a few days, but a post on YALSA-BK today brought back some memories and thoughts.

At my first job out of library school, a woman approached me at the reference desk one night. Somehow we got to talking about Harry Potter and she went on a short rant, telling me that she couldn't believe J.K. Rowling had allowed Cedric Diggory to die. Rowling was writing for children, said the patron, and she had a duty to think of the children and she owed them a happy ending.

I was so stricken by the narrow-mindedness of this patron regarding what authors do and don't owe to their readers that I changed the subject. I could have gone in a couple of directions, I suppose. I could have told her that E.B. White didn't feel he owed it to children to keep Charlotte alive, or that J.K. Rowling owes absolutely no one but herself any particular ending, but I didn't.

Oh, the things we do in order to avoid patrons calling our directors.

Lately there's been talk on YALSA-BK about liking or disliking popular books. Personally, I don't care what books people like or don't like. To every reader his or her book. (For the record, I loved Harry Potter, thought Gossip Girl was just okay...although I'm loving the Carlyles series, and did not love Twilight at all.) The conversation is starting to die down a little, but today's post from author Dina Friedman had to be blogged about. Part of it reads:

Not that I don't sometimes "hate" other people's work, but I'm careful not to say that publicly, i.e. on Goodreads or other social networking sites, or on my blog, knowing how hard it is to write a good book, or even a not-so-good book, and recognizing that taste, as so many of you have expressed, is varied and opinions are subjective.

However, YA writers do have a responsibility to audience--multiple audiences. It's interesting that the subject line here is liking/disliking *popular* books, not just any book.

I realize this is an author's perspective and authors need to be much more careful about what they say in their blogs regarding what books they like or don't like than librarians do. Not a problem there. I am sort of perplexed by the sentence that begins, "However..." though. I wish she had gone on to explain exactly what is the responsibility YA writers have to their audience, or multiple audiences. I've always been of the opinion that the only thing YA writers owe to their audience is a good story with believable characters. Notice I did not say likable, heroic, virtuous, or morally upright characters. Faulkner once said, "If the story is in you, it has got to come out." Isn't that why writers write? Because they have a story to tell? If telling a story is the basis for the creation of a book, what does an author owe to his or her audience besides that story?

Authors are not public property, and neither are their books. The same could be said for bloggers: I don't owe anyone a blog post on any particular subject. For every book, there will be people who love it and people who hate it. What, exactly, is an audience owed?

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