November 13th, 2006

cap, captain miss america

Stranger Than Fiction, The Author God, & Metaauthorship/metareadership

So, I have been looking forward to this movie since I first saw a trailer for it sometime early this summer.

What was very odd to me is the number of children who were in an audience for a movie that is basically a story about literary theory.

I am going to start by discussing it with no spoilers and what I think it means in terms of authorship, etc. I'm assuming anyone interested in seeing the movie has seen at least some form of advertisement, and there's only one thing in the movie that I think can really be spoiled but it's so much the crux of the movie that I don't want to touch it somewhere where people can read it without warning, and that's obviously whether Harold thwarts his imminent death.

The question of whether an author is, effectively, a god, like Karen Eiffel becomes in Stanger than Fiction, is something people have discussed for so many centuries that the idea pops up in Plato & Aristophanes, Shakespeare (Shakespeare wrote at least three plays that are thinly-veiled discussions of his own personal author-godliness, namely Hamlet, The Tempest, and The Winter's Tale, and he touched on it in almost all of his comedies and a couple of his tragedies, too).

More significant in this case, since Eiffel is a woman, is Mary Shelley's work in Frankenstein, which is essentially a story about how men and childless women use art and authorship to take the place of children in their lives, and Victor Frankenstein sees childbirth/creation as making him like a God. I mean, we're all familiar with people's fear of what it means for man to play God-- it's what turned the eugenics movement into Nazism, it's the reason some people oppose genetics-based scientific and health initiatives, cloning, even in-vitro fertilization or questions of choosing when to turn off life support. And yes, I'm digressing. But the point is that one's work is a creative, generative force by nature, and in Frankenstein, where childbirth and womanhood are kind of elevated to the level of a demigod, the ability to attain such a thing, and thus, godliness, is also something to be feared. One's work needs to be loved and respected, not discarded-- the work of authorship is given equality with the Author himself (or herself, though I speak of Frankenstein here and not Shelley). It is somewhat ironic coming from a woman whose husband abandoned his first wife while she was pregnant, but lots of people have already written stuff about the generative force and fear of reproduction and lots of other lovely things in terms of Frankenstein.

So what does it mean when we turn an author into a god? There is clearly a differentiation here in terms of whether we are speaking of an omniscient, omnipotent God in the way of a monotheistic religion or a more human and prone to error Ancient type god, because if we equate Eiffel with Zeus or Hera, etc., that's somewhat different from equating her with The Creator of All, if you get my drift. And in some ways, that's safer, because those kinds of gods are prone to error. They do things wrong. When Bible-God does something jackassy (which he does on occasion), he's like, "dude, Job, stop freakin' questionin' me! My job is too hard. Do YOU wanna try bein' God?" Meanwhile, Zeus is turning into another cute, fluffy animal to seduce a virgin and impregnate her, as he is wont to do.

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Okay, I only got through Author God stuff and not the other topic, bah. This might turn into a series of posts.