31 August 2009

It's My Book, Dammit, Not Yours

So, some recent drama over at a blog I read (The Over Educated Nympho, great read), has brought a few things to mind. Primarily, the notion of entitlement. A lot of readers will tell you that once they read a book, or a story, that it no longer belongs to the author. Hell, a lot of authors will tell you the same thing.

They are all completely wrong.

No matter what happens with it, anything you write is yours. Not only in a legal sense, but in a more personal, wholly intangible way.

When a reader has their mind blown, or their life completely changed by a book, they will hold it up as an example of great writing. Hell, I consider Hemingway's The Old Man and the Sea to be the absolute pinnacle of English literature, unsullied by lesser hands. It has completely changed my life, and the way I approach the English language.

But it's not mine. Not even a little bit.

It's Papa's, and it always will be.

A writer puts more than just mental effort into their work. It's far more than just words on paper to them. It's far more than a moving story that punches you in the gut and fucks with your mind.

It is them. Body and soul goes into it, and a good writer, one who takes their craft seriously, will be able to look at any passage in one of their works and tell you everything about the moment when it was written down. Where they were, what they were feeling, what was going on around them. Which one of their kids was sick that day, and whether or not they were fighting with their spouse.

There is a connection there, existing between a writer and his work, that transcends just about every other. The only comparison I can make that would do it justice is that of a parent and child. It's fundamental, and forever.

So yes, you paid your $15 to have a copy, and you've read it three dozen times. But it's not yours. Physically, you own a copy, but it belongs to the author entirely.

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