The bus is packed, per usual, so I make my way to the very back and squeeze into one of the sideways seats. After a few minutes of settling in, I break out my current ride read, Hotel Angeline.
The young man in the seat diagonal from mine, who has been holding court since before I boarded, asks, “Is that a good book?”
“It’s interesting,” I reply, and then explain that it was written by 36 different authors, on stage.
“So, what,” he counters, “It’s like the Bible of Broadway or something?”
OK, so the guy was a little bit nuts (wish I had time to share the rest of our conversation) but, he was also a little bit right. One of the things I find most compelling about art is the fact that it has a life separate from its creator. I often hear writers say that a story “wrote itself” or that the characters they created took over a novel. The concept of author as vessel becomes even more meaningful when a story has more than one writer. The story that takes shape from the collective mind of 36 people does not belong to anyone and can therefore convey a kind of truth that’s hard to achieve through a single point of view.
Don’t get me wrong: Hotel Angeline’s no Holy Bible. (For that matter, it’s no Home.) But it does provide an interesting insight into how we create and understand art. We think of writing as a solitary endeavor, but even writers who write alone get ideas from other writers–and from interactions and experiences with the people who surround them. And, of course, the true power of a story is only realized when it is read. In other words, no book is the creation of a single individual; every one is, at least to some degree, a product of the community.
Told you Books on the Bus would spark conversation.