Eastbound 3, 5:30 PM

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?”

Well, yeah.

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.

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