Since the late 1960s, it has been increasingly popular in literary criticism to speak of ‘the death of the author’. The idea that we can (and some would say, should) separate our reading of any text from its creator so we’re not unduly influenced by his or her intention or life influences.
There is liberation in separating ourselves from a writer’s work and letting it stand on its own merits. I remember the frustration of my high school English lessons, when so much effort went into identifying what ‘the writer was saying’ and analysing his or her life that all the enjoyment from a play, poem or novel quickly evaporated.
When we disregard the author, we’re free to make our own meaning from what we read. This can be a lot of fun, and we do it all the time. We go to a movie with a friend and come out with one of us describing what we saw as ‘heart warming’ and the other as ‘tragedy’—despite the film’s producer signalling that it is ‘meant to be’ a ‘touching romantic comedy’.
But there are times when it helps to acquaint ourselves with the author, because this gives us a far richer understanding of what we read. 'The Shack' is such a book.
William Paul Young’s book has touched the lives of readers around the world, but it has also drawn heavy criticism—some of it literary, but also theological. Young’s background of abuse and shame, along with a very personal encounter with the grace of God, makes The Shack an allegorical representation of Young’s life. The Shack reminds us that when we let God into the darkest places in our lives, he can shine his light and bring healing.
Of course, the Author we most need to acquaint ourselves with us is God. If you feel you’ve somehow lost the plot in life, ask God to rewrite your story.
Major Christina Tyson
Proverbs 13:20 Contemporary English Version
‘Wise friends make you wise, but you hurt yourself by going around with fools.’
Nga Whakataukī 13:20
‘Haere i te taha o te hunga whakaaro nui, a ka whai whakaaro koe: ko te takahoa ia o nga kūware, ka mamae.’
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