Thursday, June 21, 2012

symbolism: intentional or not?

50 years ago, Bruce McAllister did what most of us only dream of.  When required to dredge out the symbolism of famous works of literature, he instead wrote to several authors and straight-out asked them if they had consciously placed symbols in their work.(Addendum: here is the link)  His questionnaire, which he sent to 150 authors, received responses like these:

Isaac Asimov: “Consciously? Heavens, no! Unconsciously? How can one avoid it?”
Joseph Heller: “Yes, I do intentionally rely on symbolism in my writing, but not to the extent that many people have stated…No, I do not subconsciously place symbolism in my writing, although there are inevitably many occasions when events acquire a meaning additional to the one originally intended.”
Ray Bradbury: “No, I never consciously place symbolism in my writing. That would be a self-conscious exercise and self-consciousness is defeating to any creative act. Better to let the subconscious do the work for you, and get out of the way. The best symbolism is always unsuspected and natural.”
 As reported by Mental Floss (via Wil Wheaton).  Wheaton goes on to discuss reading those works of literature again, by choice, as an adult, and how much more he enjoyed them.

Not Really Related: Colin Nissan offers a humorous take on how to write better.

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