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The author and the reader

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By Sarah O’Connor


“Books belong to their readers.” So says young adult author John Green. This phrase is a relatively new way of thinking for authors – namely, that the books they write actually belong to its readers.

But how can a book belong to its reader?

If a person buys the book then yes, they physically own it. But how can a reader own the story they haven’t written? The author created and outlined it. They spent many long days and nights perfecting the right words to make their precious story told. So how can a reader own it?

What Green is in fact talking about may take some explaining. Green is saying that a reader owns a book in the way they interpret it. The way the author’s words speak to them, analyzing the actions of certain characters or the setting of a novel. Green says the reader owns the book in the realm of interpretation and that what the author meant to say is not as important as what the reader reads.

In the past, author’s owned their works in a physical and spiritual sense. They owned the words and if a reader thought differently from the main message, they were wrong. I tend to side with Green in some areas of books belonging to their readers.

More than enough times I have interpreted a book a certain way only to be crushed by the author when finding out it has a completely different interpretation.

And it’s because the authors are the creators that they have more say in their story. Which you could argue true but it could also be argued that the student can be their own creator.

So whom does a book belong to? The author or the reader? The creator or the viewer?

I like to think there is a hidden in-between and that both author and reader own a story. Obviously, the author created it and owns the idea.

The author created the world, gave birth to the characters and put obstacles in their way to create a story.

But the reader owns the aftermath – all the events that happen when a book ends, the lives of minor characters, other seemingly meaningless things and certain words and phrases that speak to them.

They both own the story. The creator inspires the viewer to create their own ideas and become creators themselves.

There will always be stories and we will both always own a part of them.

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