Wednesday, August 19, 2009

There Is Always a Cost, Dear One

“The birth of the reader must be at the cost of the death of the author”
- Roland Barthes

True? Is this why it sometimes feels terrible to let a book go on the shelves? Discuss.


Anonymous said...

Hey writer rejected, I have a really good rejection story for you. I was quite inspired by it when I found it this morning.

You know that huge sale recently reported for Danielle Trussoni's first novel, to Viking and the movies? Well get this. She graduated from Iowa in like '98? something lke that. awhile ago. She wrote a first novel in the workshops there that she couldn't get an agent for -- rejected by 15-20 agents. Then when she and the agent she finally found did submit the novel to publishers, it was rejected everywhere. So she had to start again.

She used much of the novel's material to write a memoir that did well and was really well reviewed. In the process somewhere along the way she switched agents from Williams/ McCormick to Janklow/Nesbit.

Somewhere also along the way she switched course from writing a narrative nonfiction book to follow her memoir, to writing a popular/ almost genre type novel, but with a literary flair, that hit pay dirt. Except she was 35 when the novel was sold, and she graduated from college in 1996, so you figure that's like a total of 15 years to first novel.

I feel so encouraged by this. I hope you do too. It ranks along with rejection story of Min Jin Lee, who broke out big with Free Food for Millionaires (actually, a pretty enjoyable book) but who took 12 years to get published even with a short story.

So - rejection. Not so uncommon, eh?

take care.

The same Anon you've been going back and forth with. eventually I will out myself and write you an actual email (you put your email address in your reply to my last comment) but for now, I lurk timidly, though helpfully. :)

my lips are two garbage barges passing on the surface of a bottomless ocean said...

Sorry, I disagree with the quote. I have no idea what the context was for Barthes making that statement, but I don't see where it can apply in literature as art or as business. Just another one of those 'pretty contradiction' quotes that people love to say.

Let me take a stab at making some deep, insightful observations about life.

the birth of the toaster must be at the cost of the death of the bread baker

you can never fill an empty refrigerator

the oven is always on, even when it's off

Ok, that last one actually makes sense if you have clock display on the oven.

Writer, Rejected said...

I think it's about letting go of the work and letting the reader have his or her own experience. Believe me, if you've ever had to do that, it is very much like dying.

Anonymous said...

Barthes was a very important figure in the philosophical and literary world. I don't see this as a "pretty contradiction." It's much more than that... and actually a great topic to discuss from the writers side instead of the critics'.

The essay this quote is taken from is about the limitations of interpretation when a reader studies a work through an author's background. If you keep the author in mind, you are limited by his or her context. However, if you forget about the author, basically "kill" the author, you (as the reader) are able to extend your study of the work far further than you would with the author in the picture. This is because every author comes from a background of numerous voices, voices that are not all his or her own. If the reader forgets about the author then he or she is able to open up to the possibility of all of these voices.

Basically, Barthes wants to separate author from work and let a work be studied on its own. This way the reader is less limited.

That's my version, anyways.

Of course, as a writer, that's some scary sh*t. Separate the author from the work? Are you kidding me, Barthes? This means that the reader can basically ignore the author. However, it is helpful in that it does separate the reader from the horrid attempt of finding out what an author's intent was in writing a piece. Intent is always tricky.



Writer, Rejected said...

Cool. Thanks, C. This is bringing back some Lit-Crit memories from days gone by. Nice to have your apt interpretation. I forgot that Barthes was essentially talking about the reader, not the writer.