Sunday, March 29, 2009

Mr Cheever, I Hardly Knew Ye

Just in case any of you are going through Rosenblum withdrawals -- she has not, after all, posted for a week -- I've decided to link to her most recent post at her own blog, Rose-coloured. She has an interesting post on Cheever, and the surprisingly common reader fallacy that the writer and his or her characters are one and the same. You can read her whole post here; below, though, a sizable excerpt.

Even before *Once* came out, I was amazed at how generous readers were in sharing what they thought of my work. It's not like I'm deluged with fanmail, but a good number of people have bothered to send me a note, or say a word to me at an event, to share their reactions to my stories.

And though really that's why anyone wants to publish anything--to get people thinking about these characters and situations that have been in the writer's head--I didn't really know how thrilling it would be see my imaginings refracted through other imaginations like this. I've enjoyed everything expressed to me, including "I just didn't get it" (more than once)'s important for me to learn about ways my work can misfire. No one ever got better by dwelling on successes.

Of course, everyone's been pretty nice--I'm sure I wouldn't appreciate negative feedback if it came in the form of people yelling "you suck!" at readings. But there is one comment that's come up a couple times, always voiced as a compliment, that does trouble me: variations on "I feel as though I've read your diary."

A big scary hurdle of publishing is accepting the idea that I can't control how people read the work once it's out there; if people enjoy thinking of all the characters I write as manifestations of Rebecca Rosenblum...uh, I guess I have to go with that.

But I wish they wouldn't. And not only because I am not a terribly autobiographical writer and that's not how *I* read the characters. Of course I use real life sometimes--it is right there, after all. Besides, all my ideas come from inside my own head, so they all reflect me to some degree (I believe I'm paraphrasing Margaret Atwood there, but I can't find an attribution). I'm sure if a person with the right degrees read any book with enough attention, he or she could construct a reasonably accurate psychological profile of the author.

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