To whom/what is a writer/artist obliged to?

RJ's idea of Paradise
An exhibit at the Singapore Art Museum, taken last Christmas (free entry on Public Holidays!)

I’m reading two books at the moment- Fear of Flying by Erica Jong, and If On A Winter’s Night A Traveller by Italo Calvino. I almost always read two or three books at the same time– different books for different parts of the day. One for reading while travelling, one work-related type, and one for reading at night before going to bed.

Ryan passed me his old copy of If On A Winter’s Night A Traveller (henceforth, IOAWNAT). My boyfriend the bibliophile bought a hardcover copy of IOAWNAT at Kinokuniya this month, because the one he has at home is ‘coming apart’. Now you know that the copy that’s been given to me is the one that’s ‘coming apart’, except that it’s not coming apart! Well, not to me anyway and if it really is coming apart, please wait ’til I’m done reading!

ANYWAY- about IOAWNAT. I’ve read a few chapters and stole a read from the middle of the book, and all I can tell you is I’ve never read one like it! I find it really bizarre to read a novel written in the second-person, and to read a novel-within-a-novel. Well, that’s what I’ve garnered so far. Oh and it has some clever references, thank you Thomas C. Foster!

As for Fear of Flying, which is under loan from Flo (with much thanks, I can’t believe it took me so long to read this!), it is not written in the second-person, so it has none of that I-tell-you-how-to-feel-what-to-do tone. But surprise, surprise, I read it and it makes me feel as though Erica Jong has known me for a very long time.

The part where she writes about meeting her favourite writers, and them being entirely different from what she imagined, is so accurate. I met one such person this year who was so crass, I don’t think I can ever read said person’s work again. (That account is a story worthy of a separate blog entry.)

Speaking of that, a thought- do writers/artists have an obligation to their fans? I remember reading an interview with Neil Gaiman who was here in Singapore last year, and he was asked how he could sit through hours at a signing (the queue was snaking at The Arts House!) and he said something about his work being for his fans, and he makes time for his fans.

(Oh my god I can’t help thinking I butchered a Neil Gaiman quote but for the life of me I don’t have his exact words and what a weirdo I’d be if I can quote an interview word for word? Afterthought: With apologies to weirdos.)

Or is the obligation writers and artists have to their work alone? To their writing, to their craft? To produce something great, something original, something that will move a reader/viewer, a piece of writing or art that will change someone?

Maybe I shouldn’t be subjecting them to obligation in the first place. The way I read a Preacher comic by Garth Ennis and expect the next one to be just as good if not better. Perhaps each one of us, writer or not, is obliged only to ourselves.

I’d love to hear your what you think.

This post was first titled ‘What I’m reading this weekend’, but I think that bit about obligation at the end is more interesting, because that thought only came midway through writing, which (to me) is wonderful.

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4 thoughts on “To whom/what is a writer/artist obliged to?

  1. The reader and the truth.

    I hope you’ll visit my site. On My last post there’s a link to a TV clip that includes a brief discussion of my book, “The Mandolin Case,” and a short clip of some triple mandolin work with my pals Darin Aldridge and Wayne Benson. I thought you might enjoy it.

    Come visit. As far as I know I’m the world’s only physician bluegrass fiction writer.

    Dr. B

  2. I think the writer’s biggest obligation is to what is right and true, because once a reader becomes a fan, the writer has a powerful influence over him. True, right? think of writers whom you like… don’t we tend to believe almost everything they say? It’s almost like we let down our guard and just swallow everything.

    hehe, once you have fans, you become very powerful eh.

    So to be responsible writers, we have a great obligation to what is right… just my two cent’s worth. That was a really though-provoking question, harlina… i sat on that one for awhile! ;) enjoying my reads here!

    1. I know what you mean about letting your guard down- some writers have the ability to swallow you whole!

      Thanks Suzannah, do come again!

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