Have you ever thought of the novel as having an owner? Who owns the novel? Which is more important: the author’s intent or the reader’s interpretation?
I think once the author writes the novel and releases it into the wild, the novel is also owned by everyone who reads it. I remember all the essays we had to write in high school about our interpretations of all these great novels. Yes, the author’s intent was discussed by the teacher, if known, but otherwise we discussed our own thoughts and opinions on the work and how it related to the times and present day. So we took ownership of these novels as we thought through our analysis. The same applies to novels I now read for pleasure. I take the book I just read and form my own opinion about it – on the characters, the events, and the overall story. I might not have the same experience as someone else reading the same book, and that is what makes my reading of the novel my own.
My guess is that many people consider the author the owner of the novel. A good case can even be made for the publisher being the owner of a novel. That aside, I believe the that true ownership of the novel is given to the readers. A book is never complete until someone has read it. I think that there are a million and one ways to read a novel. Your experience might be quite different from my experience despite the fact that we read the exact same book. Sometimes I read a book and feel one way and then read the same book years later only to discover my interpretation has completely changed. In high school I used to get so incredibly frustrated with the teachers telling me that my interpretation is wrong. I can understand the need to study the critical analysis of a given novel, but to tell a student that his or her interpretation is WRONG is ludicrous. I also dislike the notion of author privilege. I mean, sure perhaps they meant for the book to mean one thing, but they cannot control how the world received it. My take is that once an author has “released” a book into the wild… it is no longer completely theirs. The reader now holds ownership of that novel. What do you think? Who really owns the novel? On a side note, I get frustrated when I buy a digital copy or audio book and cannot share it. I mean, I purchased it, why can’t I loan it to a good friend? Do I not truly “own” digital copies? <sigh> Alas, I suppose that is a topic for another day…