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Re: [mythsoc] Re: Rowling contemplates the P-word.

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  • Walter Padgett
    This discussion on spoiling is starting to churn my interest a little. I wonder what it is that gets spoiled, specifically, when one who has read a work
    Message 1 of 12 , Jun 27, 2006
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      This discussion on spoiling is starting to churn my interest a little. I
      wonder what it is that gets spoiled, specifically, when one who has read a
      work reveals to another that certain something that "spoils it" for the
      other who hasn't read it yet. What's the "it" here? Are we talking about
      the magical experience of discovery that the reader goes through, an
      experience created by the author? Does it have something to do with the
      relationship between author and reader that gets spoiled by interference
      from another agent? Is it like violating the first directive in Star Trek?
      Somebody with knowledge of the future revealing it to another who isn't
      ready for it, yet, thereby disrupting the "intended" course of the subject's
      experience?

      Works of literature which can be spoiled have that certain something, it
      seems, that "it" which can be spoiled. Some other literary works don't.
      Perhaps they are devoid of any "surprise" type content, new, interesting or
      profound ideas, marvels of any kind, and thereby do not to fall into this
      category. Perhaps "it" depends on what the reader brings to the experience
      more than what the story teller's skill can devise.

      If Rowling's readers have lost interest in her Harry Potter stories, does
      this indicate that for those readers, those stories can't be spoiled? One
      could care if Harry Potter were killed off in Rowling's next issue, but
      why? My guess is that there would have to be something at stake for the
      reader, an investment of expectations, hopes, or sympathies.

      Sorry I'm going on here... My original point was to ask whether anyone
      could recommend books (for them) that have that certain something, that can
      be spoiled. After listening to my own (predictably relativistic) way of
      thinking about it for a moment, maybe almost all books can fall into this
      category, because it depends upon the subjective tastes and unique
      experience of the individual.

      But maybe not. Some works maybe there are that come to mind when one thinks
      about having to be very careful not to spoil it for the uninitiated. Any?

      Thanks, Walter.


      [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
    • Jason Fisher
      Walter, ... For me, reading is a deeply personal (and generally extremely rewarding) experience. I m not interested in collaborative reading -- at least not on
      Message 2 of 12 , Jun 27, 2006
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        Walter,

        I think you hit the nail on the head when you wrote:

        > Are we talking about the magical experience of discovery that the
        > reader goes through, an experience created by the author? Does it
        > have something to do with the relationship between author and
        > reader that gets spoiled by interference from another agent?
        > Somebody with knowledge of the future revealing it to another who
        > isn't ready for it, yet, thereby disrupting the "intended" course of
        > the subject's experience?

        For me, reading is a deeply personal (and generally extremely rewarding) experience. I'm not interested in collaborative reading -- at least not on *first* readings. Subsequent re-readings, sure. :) Some people love book groups, enjoy speculating with others on where a book is going *while* they all read it. Not me. After the fact, sure, but the journey that an author and reader embark on together is (or should be) inviolable while it's going on for that first time. You can only ever read a book for the first time once. And I think it should be a very precious experience of discovery. At least, for me. Your "magical experience of discovery" is spot-on. While I read, I tend to be very wrapped up in something like Coleridge's "willing suspension of disbelief," and I don't want to be led by anybody or anything but the author and my own invested feelings and thoughts. And if you reach in from the outside (or even if the author herself does this, say, in an interview that I
        accidentally read) and interfere with the process, I won't thank you for it. Something has been lost -- something that can never be recaptured. The "it" to which you referred.

        Am I over-romanticizing the whole experience of reading? Hahae, maybe.

        And by the way, I am *notoriously* anti-spoiler, and my definition of a spoiler is extremely broad, so take all of this is just my own (possibly unique) opinion. And I even apply it to nonfiction. For example, I recently read Sebastian Junger's "A Death in Belmont," and I applied the same no-spoiler rules to it that I would to Rowling's next novel.

        > My original point was to ask whether anyone could recommend books
        > (for them) that have that certain something, that can be spoiled. After
        > listening to my own (predictably relativistic) way of thinking about it for
        > a moment, maybe almost all books can fall into this category, because
        > it depends upon the subjective tastes and unique experience of the individual.

        For me, yes, almost all books are of this sort. I suppose the only ones that might not be are those of pure expository nonfiction -- e.g., something like Strunk and White's Elements of Style, a book of Picasso reproductions, a guide to learning Italian, et al.). Certainly, all fiction is "spoilable" in my view. And this applies to poetry as well. Want an example of a "spoilable" poem? Just read James Wright's "Lying in a Hammock at William Duffy's Farm in Pine Island, Minnesota" (http://www.cs.rice.edu/~ssiyer/minstrels/poems/616.html) and ask yourself how you'd feel if somebody told you about the end of it before you'd read it.

        Jason
      • Mike Foster
        Tolkien misliked the title of The Return of the King because of the spoiler factor, as I recall. Mike ... [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
        Message 3 of 12 , Jun 27, 2006
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          Tolkien misliked the title of The Return of the King because of the
          spoiler factor, as I recall.

          Mike

          Jason Fisher wrote:

          >Walter,
          >
          >I think you hit the nail on the head when you wrote:
          >
          >
          >
          >>Are we talking about the magical experience of discovery that the
          >>reader goes through, an experience created by the author? Does it
          >>have something to do with the relationship between author and
          >>reader that gets spoiled by interference from another agent?
          >>Somebody with knowledge of the future revealing it to another who
          >>isn't ready for it, yet, thereby disrupting the "intended" course of
          >>the subject's experience?
          >>
          >>
          >
          >For me, reading is a deeply personal (and generally extremely rewarding) experience. I'm not interested in collaborative reading -- at least not on *first* readings. Subsequent re-readings, sure. :) Some people love book groups, enjoy speculating with others on where a book is going *while* they all read it. Not me. After the fact, sure, but the journey that an author and reader embark on together is (or should be) inviolable while it's going on for that first time. You can only ever read a book for the first time once. And I think it should be a very precious experience of discovery. At least, for me. Your "magical experience of discovery" is spot-on. While I read, I tend to be very wrapped up in something like Coleridge's "willing suspension of disbelief," and I don't want to be led by anybody or anything but the author and my own invested feelings and thoughts. And if you reach in from the outside (or even if the author herself does this, say, in an interview that I
          > accidentally read) and interfere with the process, I won't thank you for it. Something has been lost -- something that can never be recaptured. The "it" to which you referred.
          >
          >Am I over-romanticizing the whole experience of reading? Hahae, maybe.
          >
          >And by the way, I am *notoriously* anti-spoiler, and my definition of a spoiler is extremely broad, so take all of this is just my own (possibly unique) opinion. And I even apply it to nonfiction. For example, I recently read Sebastian Junger's "A Death in Belmont," and I applied the same no-spoiler rules to it that I would to Rowling's next novel.
          >
          >
          >
          >>My original point was to ask whether anyone could recommend books
          >>(for them) that have that certain something, that can be spoiled. After
          >>listening to my own (predictably relativistic) way of thinking about it for
          >>a moment, maybe almost all books can fall into this category, because
          >>it depends upon the subjective tastes and unique experience of the individual.
          >>
          >>
          >
          >For me, yes, almost all books are of this sort. I suppose the only ones that might not be are those of pure expository nonfiction -- e.g., something like Strunk and White's Elements of Style, a book of Picasso reproductions, a guide to learning Italian, et al.). Certainly, all fiction is "spoilable" in my view. And this applies to poetry as well. Want an example of a "spoilable" poem? Just read James Wright's "Lying in a Hammock at William Duffy's Farm in Pine Island, Minnesota" (http://www.cs.rice.edu/~ssiyer/minstrels/poems/616.html) and ask yourself how you'd feel if somebody told you about the end of it before you'd read it.
          >
          >Jason
          >
          >
          >
          >The Mythopoeic Society website http://www.mythsoc.org
          >Yahoo! Groups Links
          >
          >
          >
          >
          >
          >
          >
          >
          >
          >
          >


          [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
        • Bonnie Callahan
          Good point, Mr. Padgett! Many a time I can guess more or less how a tale is going to unfold, but then I get swept into ,not WHO dunit, but. How & WHY they
          Message 4 of 12 , Jun 28, 2006
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            Good point, Mr. Padgett!

            Many a time I can guess more or less how a tale is going to unfold, but
            then I get swept into ,not WHO dunit, but. How & WHY they Dunit.
            And what other riches may be apprehended along the way.

            Bonnie

            Walter Padgett <wpadgett@...> wrote:
            This discussion on spoiling is starting to churn my interest a little. I
            wonder what it is that gets spoiled, specifically, when one who has read a
            work reveals to another that certain something that "spoils it" for the
            other who hasn't read it yet. What's the "it" here? Are we talking about
            the magical experience of discovery that the reader goes through, an
            experience created by the author? Does it have something to do with the
            relationship between author and reader that gets spoiled by interference
            from another agent? Is it like violating the first directive in Star Trek?
            Somebody with knowledge of the future revealing it to another who isn't
            ready for it, yet, thereby disrupting the "intended" course of the subject's
            experience?

            Works of literature which can be spoiled have that certain something, it
            seems, that "it" which can be spoiled. Some other literary works don't.
            Perhaps they are devoid of any "surprise" type content, new, interesting or
            profound ideas, marvels of any kind, and thereby do not to fall into this
            category. Perhaps "it" depends on what the reader brings to the experience
            more than what the story teller's skill can devise.

            If Rowling's readers have lost interest in her Harry Potter stories, does
            this indicate that for those readers, those stories can't be spoiled? One
            could care if Harry Potter were killed off in Rowling's next issue, but
            why? My guess is that there would have to be something at stake for the
            reader, an investment of expectations, hopes, or sympathies.

            Sorry I'm going on here... My original point was to ask whether anyone
            could recommend books (for them) that have that certain something, that can
            be spoiled. After listening to my own (predictably relativistic) way of
            thinking about it for a moment, maybe almost all books can fall into this
            category, because it depends upon the subjective tastes and unique
            experience of the individual.

            But maybe not. Some works maybe there are that come to mind when one thinks
            about having to be very careful not to spoil it for the uninitiated. Any?

            Thanks, Walter.


            [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]




            The Mythopoeic Society website http://www.mythsoc.org
            Yahoo! Groups Links









            [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
          • John D Rateliff
            I think the situation with spoilers is rather complicated. Certainly there are some stories in which there are plot twists and surprises, prior knowledge of
            Message 5 of 12 , Jun 28, 2006
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              I think the situation with "spoilers" is rather complicated.
              Certainly there are some stories in which there are plot twists and
              surprises, prior knowledge of which significantly changes the
              experience of reading or viewing that work. For example, THE OTHERS,
              FIGHT CLUB, THE SIXTH SENSE, and PSYCHO are all very different movies
              when viewed by those in the know as opposed to those coming to them
              fresh without preconceptions, and some of them are so well known that
              they can no longer be seen with the original impact.* So, where plot
              is the major element in a story's overall effect (rather than, say,
              worldbuilding/setting), spoilers do matter.
              I'm fairly inured to spoilers myself, because in all my years
              studying literature I often had the experience of reading about a
              book before actually reading it. I can therefore usually enjoy a
              story even if I already know far more about it than the author
              intended; I can at least watch to see how it's done. But then I
              often, when deciding whether or not to read a book, open it up and
              read a passage out of the middle: if that makes me want to find out
              who these people are and how they got into that situation, I start
              from the beginning and read all the way through; if not, I'm not
              likely to like it any better no matter where I start. Similarly, I
              have no compunction about reading a book out of the middle of a
              series, or starting with the middle book of a trilogy. Not everyone
              is lucky enough to be able to enjoy books this way, and even I rarely
              read introductions to "classics" unless they're by the original
              author (even then I find it's usually better to read them as
              afterwords); they invariably give away too much of the plot and get
              in the way of reading and deciding what you think about the book
              yourself.
              My wife's experience is very different, and she actively avoids
              spoilers whenever possible. This can be very difficult, since they
              bombard you from newspaper headlines, ads on tv, et al., but she
              makes the effort and is more successful than not. Others I know
              deliberately seek out every tidbit of information and make a kind of
              game out of knowing everything possible before the book or film is
              released; they also tend to be the people who try to see a movie the
              day it's released. I think they want the comfort of re-reading from
              the very first exposure, but if that works for them it's fine with
              me, so long as they respect the wishes of those who actually enjoy
              the feeling of something new; the latter of course is just basic
              courtesy.

              --John R.



              *I just went back and re-read "The Strange Case of Dr. Jeckyl and
              Mr. Hyde" for the first time in years, and realized that no one can
              now read that book the way Stevenson intended.
            • John D Rateliff
              From the following news story I conclude that those who want to see the LORD OF THE RINGS play in Toronto had better do so soon. Short version: you can t tell
              Message 6 of 12 , Jun 29, 2006
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                From the following news story I conclude that those who want to see
                the LORD OF THE RINGS play in Toronto had better do so soon.

                Short version: you can't tell the story of LotR coherently and
                completely in three and a half hours of stage time.

                Long version: http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/theater/
                275671_lordoftherings29.html


                --JDR
              • David Bratman
                ... Or, nine hours of movie time. (ooh, bites tongue) DB
                Message 7 of 12 , Jun 29, 2006
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                  At 10:17 AM 6/29/2006 -0700, John D Rateliff wrote:

                  >Short version: you can't tell the story of LotR coherently and
                  >completely in three and a half hours of stage time.

                  Or, nine hours of movie time. (ooh, bites tongue)

                  DB
                • Walter Padgett
                  Yes. Thanks for your thoughtful comments, Mr. Rateliff. I loved all the movies you mention. It s interesting that two of them have to do with notions of the
                  Message 8 of 12 , Jun 29, 2006
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                    Yes. Thanks for your thoughtful comments, Mr. Rateliff.

                    I loved all the movies you mention. It's interesting that two of them have
                    to do with notions of the afterlife. The characters in both THE OTHERS and
                    SIXTH SENSE did not realize they had died early on in the story, and the
                    audience was not supposed to discover this very important aspect of the
                    setting of the story until it became known to the characters, themselves.
                    This knowledge was to be revealed to the characters and the audience at the
                    same time. For me, it worked. I totally did not realize that the
                    characters played by Bruce Willis and Nicole Kidman were dead until the end
                    of those movies. Then they were suddenly and blatantly transformed
                    into statements about what happens when a person dies.

                    FIGHT CLUB was also one of my favorites, partly because of the same kind of
                    revelation, where the audience finds out the characters are dual aspects of
                    the same mind at the same time that the Edward Norton character does. That
                    sudden revelation changes the meaning of everything in the movie, and it
                    becomes a statement (for the imaginatively sympathetic, anyway) about the
                    psychotic experience of split personality disorder. I did not have the same
                    experience with PSYCHO, however. And I think it's because I was too young
                    to really get it the first time I saw it, but I had enough memory of what
                    was going to happen with the old lady at the end that there wasn't any
                    surprise in it for me when I did have the metacontextual knowledge capable
                    of being impacted by the movie.

                    I think the main thing that can be spoiled is the surprise twist or ending.
                    If it's not a surprise, then I don't think we're talking about it being
                    spoiled, at least in most cases.

                    That seems like it would take some skill setting up, to create a subtle
                    backcloth of apparently mundane meanings, or simply little hint details that
                    don't sync up with the preponderance of what is evidently the meaning of the
                    story, and then triggering the surprise that is going to make those little
                    hints overwhelmingly relevant the instant the reader's expectations are not
                    met.

                    Thanks, Walter.



                    On 6/28/06, John D Rateliff <sacnoth@...> wrote:
                    >
                    > I think the situation with "spoilers" is rather complicated.
                    > Certainly there are some stories in which there are plot twists and
                    > surprises, prior knowledge of which significantly changes the
                    > experience of reading or viewing that work. For example, THE OTHERS,
                    > FIGHT CLUB, THE SIXTH SENSE, and PSYCHO are all very different movies
                    > when viewed by those in the know as opposed to those coming to them
                    > fresh without preconceptions, and some of them are so well known that
                    > they can no longer be seen with the original impact.* So, where plot
                    > is the major element in a story's overall effect (rather than, say,
                    > worldbuilding/setting), spoilers do matter.
                    > I'm fairly inured to spoilers myself, because in all my years
                    > studying literature I often had the experience of reading about a
                    > book before actually reading it. I can therefore usually enjoy a
                    > story even if I already know far more about it than the author
                    > intended; I can at least watch to see how it's done. But then I
                    > often, when deciding whether or not to read a book, open it up and
                    > read a passage out of the middle: if that makes me want to find out
                    > who these people are and how they got into that situation, I start
                    > from the beginning and read all the way through; if not, I'm not
                    > likely to like it any better no matter where I start. Similarly, I
                    > have no compunction about reading a book out of the middle of a
                    > series, or starting with the middle book of a trilogy. Not everyone
                    > is lucky enough to be able to enjoy books this way, and even I rarely
                    > read introductions to "classics" unless they're by the original
                    > author (even then I find it's usually better to read them as
                    > afterwords); they invariably give away too much of the plot and get
                    > in the way of reading and deciding what you think about the book
                    > yourself.
                    > My wife's experience is very different, and she actively avoids
                    > spoilers whenever possible. This can be very difficult, since they
                    > bombard you from newspaper headlines, ads on tv, et al., but she
                    > makes the effort and is more successful than not. Others I know
                    > deliberately seek out every tidbit of information and make a kind of
                    > game out of knowing everything possible before the book or film is
                    > released; they also tend to be the people who try to see a movie the
                    > day it's released. I think they want the comfort of re-reading from
                    > the very first exposure, but if that works for them it's fine with
                    > me, so long as they respect the wishes of those who actually enjoy
                    > the feeling of something new; the latter of course is just basic
                    > courtesy.
                    >
                    > --John R.
                    >
                    > *I just went back and re-read "The Strange Case of Dr. Jeckyl and
                    > Mr. Hyde" for the first time in years, and realized that no one can
                    > now read that book the way Stevenson intended.
                    >
                    >
                    >


                    [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
                  • Wayne G. Hammond
                    ... And yet the version of the musical to open in London next year is to be cut back to only three hours. Wayne [Non-text portions of this message have been
                    Message 9 of 12 , Jun 30, 2006
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                      John and David wrote:

                      > >Short version: you can't tell the story of LotR coherently and
                      > >completely in three and a half hours of stage time.
                      >
                      >Or, nine hours of movie time. (ooh, bites tongue)

                      And yet the version of the musical to open in London next year is to be cut
                      back to only three hours.

                      Wayne


                      [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
                    • Berni Phillips
                      From: Wayne G. Hammond ... Now, I can see them doing that. You just make cuts. You don t really need 4 hobbits: two, or at
                      Message 10 of 12 , Jun 30, 2006
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                        From: "Wayne G. Hammond" <Wayne.G.Hammond@...>


                        > John and David wrote:
                        >
                        >> >Short version: you can't tell the story of LotR coherently and
                        >> >completely in three and a half hours of stage time.
                        >>
                        >>Or, nine hours of movie time. (ooh, bites tongue)
                        >
                        > And yet the version of the musical to open in London next year is to be
                        > cut
                        > back to only three hours.

                        Now, I can see them doing that. You just make cuts. You don't really need
                        4 hobbits: two, or at the most three, is enough. Cut Lothlorien -- it's
                        just Rivendell with tree branches. Then you can skip Galadriel and those
                        gifts. Cut the whole middle book -- it's just filler. You cut the nine
                        riders to maybe four. And there's no ring other than The Ring.

                        <ducking and running>
                        Berni
                      • Joan.Marie.Verba@sff.net
                        ... From: Mike Foster ... The Friendly Neighborhood Mythsoc List Administrator has set no policy about spoilers, primiarly because I
                        Message 11 of 12 , Aug 22 10:26 AM
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                          --- Original Message ---
                          From: "Mike Foster" <mafoster@...>

                          > 'Spoiler alert' is indeed always apt. In my Tolkien course, I mandated
                          > that discussion could not advance beyond the texts covered so far, so
                          > that no one could spill LORD OF THE RING beans when "Riddles in the
                          > Dark" chapter in THE HOBBIT was being discussed.

                          The Friendly Neighborhood Mythsoc List Administrator has set no policy about
                          spoilers, primiarly because I generally prefer to know the endings to books or
                          movies before I read/see them. If people want to voluntarily issue spoiler
                          warnings, that's fine; if not, that's fine, too.

                          > Oh, and in "Murder on the Orient Express," the murder was committed by.

                          Well, that's an exception. It's the one movie I'm glad I didn't know the
                          ending to in advance, because I determined who dunnit all by myself!

                          (By the way, yes, the Friendly Neighborhood etc. has been keeping watch on the
                          Tolkien vs. Jackson debate and was about to issue advisories when the tone
                          started to become more moderate. My thanks to those who have voluntarily
                          moderated their posts.)

                          Carry on.

                          Joan
                          Friendly Neighborhood Mythsoc List Administrator
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