At our most recent book club get-together, Sara made a comment that she was a “shallow reader,” a statement that I repeated about myself as did a couple of other people.
By “shallow reader” I mean that I take the words as they’re written without drawing tenuous connections between the story and some greater meaning; but I also mean that sometimes I feel like there is something I’m not “getting,” that there is some deeper meaning to the story that alludes me.
Many years ago in creative writing class I turned in a short story that was returned with comments about the story’s meaning, the professor wrote that I had taken what started as an interesting examination of a relationship and turned it in to a Stephen King story. Here’s the thing – I was trying to write in the vein of one of my favorite authors (Stephen King). Whatever the professor thought he read, it was in him not in my story. At the same time I was taking that class where we were analyzing novels. I enjoyed that class, but the experience with my own story made me wonder how much of what we were finding in these stories was put there by the author and how much was put there by us.
We were discussing the book Zezen by local author Vanessa Veselka who is also a neighbor and was at the meeting. At least for me, the “shallow reader” line of conversation was a way to say “it’s not your fault that I didn’t understand your Grand Meaning.” But when Vanessa talked about the book and where she was writing from, I took away that we weren’t being shallow in our reading of her book, that the story was the story and there wasn’t a Message to be discovered. Sometimes an explosion is just an explosion.