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Keep a good head and always carry a light bulb. [Aug. 21st, 2005|09:31 am]
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ursulav points to a message from Ursula K. LeGuin, which starts:
I made a note to myself a while ago: "Whenever they tell me children want this sort of book and children need this sort of writing, I am going to smile politely and shut my earlids. I am a writer, not a caterer. There are plenty of caterers. But what children most want and need is what we and they don't know they want and don't think they need, and only writers can offer it to them."

which I think is wonderful.

Both Ursulae then proceed to talk about messages. ursulav puts it like this:
I would be a little hurt to think that my art was meaningless, but it's not the sort of 1:1 symbol-to-meaning ratio that I could haul out and say "This abstract spoon is the suffering of women in Walmart sweat shops, and the chicken is capitalism and the moose represents the Vatican," unless I'm trying to be funny.

- a funnier explanation of allegory than tnh's almost simultaneous post:
And a word here about what we mean when we talk about fantasy meaning something to the reader. What we don't mean is one of those dumb worksheet study-question systems where the knight symbolizes courage, and the Green Knight's challenge symbolizes the fine print at the bottom of contracts which you should always remember to read before signing, and the road symbolizes the writer's subconscious, and the wilderness symbolizes the wilderness only not the one you're thinking of, and the knight's horse symbolizes the oppression of the working class.

Synchronicity: don't you just love it?

The bit about messages, I suppose, is one of those things that has to be said from time to time, because no matter how often you say it, there will still be people who persist in not getting it. But LeGuin's opening point, that her job is not to give me what I want, but to give me what I don't know I want, yes, that's what I read for. And although it's a sadness to me that her later books don't achieve it, and indeed sometimes seem to have precisely the sort of message she repudiates, she has done it twice, if not three times, and I owe her an immense debt for it.