When a reader completely missed the author’s intent or craft

First morning of 2015. 

Just finished a very powerful book with a strong, convincing, well constructed multiple view points narrative structure and challenging ideas that demand the readers to live with the discomfort of not-knowing the whole truth, to understand that life is complex depending on the the angles of the viewers, and to mull over the potential futures of the varied characters.

Headed over to goodreads and see other readers’ reactions.  Many positive ones and especially from those who have lived through similar circumstances as the characters did in the book.  But then, I found a review complaining that because “the reader” finds it confusing how the story is told with so many different POVs and that “the reader” cannot see the point of some side characters’ remarks even though they give a fuller picture of how complex such matters can be and “the reader” cannot accept a book with no clearcut facts presented even though that is the whole entire point of the narrative.

I wanted to leave a comment and requested that “the reader” to admit her own shortcomings in her inability to appreciate challenging literary constructs and demanding ethical quandaries.  But then, I wonder: can we ever fault a reader for her inabilities to meet the author at the author’s level?  Is it the reader’s responsibility to challenge herself that way? 

This comes down to how we view books:

Is a book a sacred or demi-sacred object and deserves reverence and hard work to decipher by every reader?  Or is a book just another consumer product and the reader can register complaints and give poor ratings purely based on personal preferences without considering the crafts and intents of the author?

I have been thinking about subjective and objective analyses of arts in all forms for a while and this goodreads review just brought it home for me that I cannot treat books as mere goods to be liked or disliked but artistic expressions that need critical examinations even if a reader’s emotional reaction can be a major component in evaluating a narrative’s success. 

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