TCD Question #6 - Why is the Reader Responsible?

by Arturo Perez-Reverte

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TCD Question #6 - Why is the Reader Responsible?

Unread postby Liz » Sat Aug 09, 2008 2:36 pm

I apologize for posting this question so late. My computer monitor died. I'm back to using an old dinky one now. :-/

Ch. XV, Pg. 333-334. After Corso tells Balkan his theory of the events over the past few days (or was it weeks?), Balkan responds:


”I suppose,” I asked, “I should now confess, say, ‘Yes, it’s all true,’ and hold out my hands for you to handcuff them. Is that what you’re expecting?”

He hesitated. His recital of the story didn’t seem to have given him confidence in his conclusions.

“But there is a link,” he muttered.

I looked at his narrow shadow on the marble flagstones of the terrace floor, dark against the rectangles of light cast from the reception room and stretching beyond the steps into the darkness of the garden.

“I’m afraid,” I said, “that your imagination has been playing tricks on you.”

He shook his head slowly. “I didn’t imagine that Victor Fargas was drowned in the pond, or that Baroness Ungern was burned with her books. Those things happened. They were real. The two stories are mixed up.”

“You’ve just said it yourself—there are two stories. Maybe all that links them is your own intertextual reading.”

“Spare me the technical jargon. The Dumas chapter triggered everything.” He looked at me resentfully. “Your G****mn club and all your little games.”

“Don’t lay the blame on me. Games are perfectly valid. If this were a work of fiction and not a real story, you as the reader would be principally responsible.”


Why is the reader responsible?
You can't judge a book by its cover.

The only thing that matters is the ending. It's the most important part of the story.

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Re: TCD Question #6 - Why is the Reader Responsible?

Unread postby Parlez » Sat Aug 09, 2008 6:11 pm

My answer is to say I don't agree. I don't believe the reader is responsible for the impressions s/he gets or the conclusions s/he draws from a work of fiction. That responsibility lies with the author. In real life it's common for us to mis-analyze the data, make the wrong connections and head down the wrong road firmly convinced we've got it right. But in storytelling the reader is controlled by the storyteller from the get-go. There's very little room in a good work of fiction for the reader to waver or wander away from the author's aim, IMO. If the story is told well, the reader is taken along without question or quarrel and shouldn't be liable for misguidance or misinterpretation.

And I'll add that even though this dialogue comes at the end of the book, it's not the first time as I was reading TCD that I wanted to say the same thing Corso says here: "Spare me the techincal jargon." amen!!
"Belay that! ...Do something else!" ~ Hector Barbossa
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Re: TCD Question #6 - Why is the Reader Responsible?

Unread postby Liz » Sat Aug 09, 2008 6:27 pm

Parlez wrote:And I'll add that even though this dialogue comes at the end of the book, it's not the first time as I was reading TCD that I wanted to say the same thing Corso says here: "Spare me the techincal jargon." amen!!

I could call it something else, but I won't. :lol:
You can't judge a book by its cover.

The only thing that matters is the ending. It's the most important part of the story.

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Re: TCD Question #6 - Why is the Reader Responsible?

Unread postby fansmom » Sat Aug 09, 2008 7:31 pm

I'll have to confess that when I read phrase in the first paragraph--hold out my hands for you to handcuff them--my mind went astray, to CJS holding out his hands. I guess that's actually related to the point--that as readers, we bring different experiences and points of view to what we read, and the author can't be responsible for all of them.

And I have to confess that I really don't like it when an author says, in a book, "If this were in a book, I wouldn't believe it." (Cheating, and plain silly.)

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Re: TCD Question #6 - Why is the Reader Responsible?

Unread postby nebraska » Sat Aug 09, 2008 8:51 pm

I do think as individuals we bring our own set of experiences and beliefs and all our emotional baggage to what we read. Sure the author controls the story and the background and the explanations - but when we read, we make our own evaluations and each of us decides whether or not to buy the author's package.

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Re: TCD Question #6 - Why is the Reader Responsible?

Unread postby gemini » Sat Aug 09, 2008 11:04 pm

I also think the author does the leading whether it fact or fiction because they decide what you will see. You may decide how you feel about it and sometimes I do not always go along with the author, but they still give you the information to process.
The last line differentiates between stories of fact or fiction and I don't see the difference. The statement is that if this were fiction the reader is responsible but not if the story is fact. Either way the author decided what you will read and leads you to a conclusion.
That makes the author responsible for the story outcome, not the reader who only decides if he agrees or not. Either way the reader is not responsible for the story.
:-/
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Re: TCD Question #6 - Why is the Reader Responsible?

Unread postby Parlez » Sat Aug 09, 2008 11:20 pm

I agree about the reader being the final judge of whether or not any given book has been a satisfying experience, based on the reader's personal mental configurations and capacities for judging such things. But I still think the ultimate responsibility lies with the author, mainly because the reader tends to withhold judgement until the last minute; up until the end, in most cases, the reader works quite diligently to keep an open mind.

I also think the very first responsibility of a writer is to be able to hold the reader's attention long enough to get through the book! If the reader's mind starts wandering to images and references outside the storyline and not intended by the author - to images of, say, Captain Jack Sparrow - then I'd say the writer hasn't done a very good job.
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Re: TCD Question #6 - Why is the Reader Responsible?

Unread postby fansmom » Sat Aug 09, 2008 11:34 pm

Parlez wrote: If the reader's mind starts wandering to images and references outside the storyline and not intended by the author - to images of, say, Captain Jack Sparrow - then I'd say the writer hasn't done a very good job.
I must confess that my mind goes there very easily . . .

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Re: TCD Question #6 - Why is the Reader Responsible?

Unread postby gemini » Sat Aug 09, 2008 11:41 pm

Parlez wrote:I agree about the reader being the final judge of whether or not any given book has been a satisfying experience, based on the reader's personal mental configurations and capacities for judging such things. But I still think the ultimate responsibility lies with the author, mainly because the reader tends to withhold judgement until the last minute; up until the end, in most cases, the reader works quite diligently to keep an open mind.

I also think the very first responsibility of a writer is to be able to hold the reader's attention long enough to get through the book! If the reader's mind starts wandering to images and references outside the storyline and not intended by the author - to images of, say, Captain Jack Sparrow - then I'd say the writer hasn't done a very good job.

I agree Parlez for the writer to have a good story, you must be able to escape into it and forget yourself. If you are always putting your own preferences into the story, you have lost the characters perspective. For me fact or fiction is usually read as an escape from my daily routine into someone else's, sort of like traveling but leaving you behind. If I can't get that involved it's not a good book.
Back to the question again, I don't want to be responsible for the outcome; I am off into the writer's mind to see something different. :grin:
"If there are no dogs in Heaven, then when I die I want to go where they went." Will Rogers



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Re: TCD Question #6 - Why is the Reader Responsible?

Unread postby Liz » Sun Aug 10, 2008 1:50 am

To be honest, I had not come up with an answer to this until I read all of yours. I guess you have influenced me (you as the authors?). But only to a point. And my point is—being that I always see things in grey--that I think it is a combination or neither (whichever way you want to look at it). I think that it is the responsibility of the writer to tell a story and lead the reader on a certain path. The reader has a choice to take that path all the way or to veer off on her own, which I guess is her responsibility. Also, one person’s interpretation of a story (or the facts, for that matter) can be different than another’s. How many years and how many books have we discussed? Have we all agreed on how to interpret what the authors have written? No. To me, that says that fiction can be interpreted differently by different people. But I say neither the reader nor the writer is responsible. It is just a story, not fact. So that in itself allows it the flexibility of being interpreted in various ways. OK, now my head hurts and I’m heading to bed…..to read some more fiction. By the way, this is just my opinion. Therefore, I am not responsible for your reaction to it. :lol:
You can't judge a book by its cover.

The only thing that matters is the ending. It's the most important part of the story.

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Re: TCD Question #6 - Why is the Reader Responsible?

Unread postby Gilbert's Girl » Sun Aug 10, 2008 2:57 am

Interesting answers, not sure I have anything to add and probably agree with some of everything already suggested. :cool:

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Re: TCD Question #6 - Why is the Reader Responsible?

Unread postby gemini » Wed Aug 20, 2008 10:04 pm

I am backtracking to this question now that we are discussing more of the story. I originally said the author is responsible for the story but having finished the book and seeing how varied some of our answers are to various questions, I see that Perez Reverte has intentionally left parts of this story up to the readers interpretation.
I have a feeling when we get to the question on the ending we will all have very different versions and Perez Reverte is laughing at those of us who thought the author decides the outcome because he supplies the information. He seems to have discussed it ahead of time because he went to a lot of trouble to give us choices to leave the readers with their own interpretation.
"If there are no dogs in Heaven, then when I die I want to go where they went." Will Rogers



Growing old is mandatory, growing up is optional.

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Re: TCD Question #6 - Why is the Reader Responsible?

Unread postby Liz » Wed Aug 20, 2008 10:48 pm

gemini wrote:I am backtracking to this question now that we are discussing more of the story. I originally said the author is responsible for the story but having finished the book and seeing how varied some of our answers are to various questions, I see that Perez Reverte has intentionally left parts of this story up to the readers interpretation.
I have a feeling when we get to the question on the ending we will all have very different versions and Perez Reverte is laughing at those of us who thought the author decides the outcome because he supplies the information. He seems to have discussed it ahead of time because he went to a lot of trouble to give us choices to leave the readers with their own interpretation.


:applause: Oooooooh I like it! But let's not go there just yet.
You can't judge a book by its cover.

The only thing that matters is the ending. It's the most important part of the story.


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