In the feed of book reviews I got this weekend was an article in The Guardian by Greil Marcus. It talks about a book he has written called Listening to Van Morrison. The book is based on interviews with audiences at Van Morrison concerts. Consequently much of it is about how people interact with art. This section stood out for me:
One of the themes of the book I wrote has to do with the fear some people have for the imagination, for their resistance to being moved by something that is invented: made up. It’s the desire to reduce anything that affects them to the biography of whoever it might have been who made the work.
It seems to me that this is applicable to far more than just music. It touches on the determination that so many readers have to interpret a book in terms of “what the author intended”. Heck, people even judge the abilities of celebrity sportsmen such as David Beckham or Tiger Woods on the basis of whether they view them as “good people” or not. The phenomenon also has connection with diversity politics, because so many people try to defend works of art on the basis of whether or not the creator intended to cause offense. I find this all very odd. A performance — any performance — has a life of its own way beyond that of its creator.