Listen Jena (and unborn child), in the wake of my blitz of Batman blogs several weeks back, I did not expect so many nice people to read. What I did expect, though, was that someone would eventually accuse me of giving Christopher Nolan too much credit. I think maybe I did, but that is the best way to enjoy a good story.
Many students struggle in English class with the question of the author’s intent. The teacher (or some overachieving classmate) points out that Holden Caulfield’s hunting cap is the same color as his dead brother’s hair, and lots of students lean back in their chairs, thinking do you really believe the writer meant to do that? Aren’t you just making up connections that the author didn’t mean for us to make?
Sadly, the best answer a good teacher can give to those questions is: yes, quite possibly. Now let’s get back it.
When a man makes a story, it’s as if he builds a garden. He digs and piles and arranges and plants and waters until the landscape is what he wanted it to be. Then he walks away, but the plants keep growing (or start dying). It’s not that anyone’s story can be absolutely anything, but a story can and does grow beyond the vision of its creator. Many readers dig so deep that they find new things, clever tricks or beautiful symbols and images that mean so much to them, and it does not matter if the writer or filmmaker meant to do that.
We are clever and critical people, determined not to be fooled. But no story can thrill or move us unless it first fools us, and we have to let it happen.
It’s true that I connected Bane to Bill Sikes in Oliver Twist, called Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy a great cinematic magic trick, and compared Batman’s arc to Buzz Lightyear’s falling with style. Someone was bound to object. But stories always get better when we buy into them, when we give the author as much credit as we have to give, when we put a penny in the slot and watch the artificial lights shine.
Jena, this year, after lots of years, I finished writing that novel, the little murder mystery, and you, and a few other friends, read it and claim to have had fun. If you did, it wasn’t because my amazing linguistic powers made it impossible not to, but because you bought in. You gave the pages permission to come alive.
So this post was never meant to be a lecture (though it may have turned into one). It was meant to thank you, the handful of friends who have read the book, and everyone who clicks through to this blog to give a few paragraphs more attention and credit than they deserve. Thanks for the pennies.