I found the above linked article in The Paris Review late last year. I’d been thinking about it this past weekend and wanted to write a post about it. Then, as things normally tend to go, Wil Wheaon wrote about it today on his blog.
In 1963, Bruce McAllister (then sixteen years old) sent out a four-question survey about symbolism to 150 well-known authors asking about their usage (if any) of symbolism in writing. Seventy-five of them responded.
The link above shows some of their responses most of which are quite interesting and – I think – reflect my take on who these authors were as people. Ayn Rand’s response was likely the most amusing. Bradbury’s was great, especially his signing off with a flourished mention of it being Guy Fawkes’ Day.
Most interesting is the idea that a lot of what readers are ‘supposed’ to get out of a novel or other piece of writing – the things we’re taught about in our lit courses – aren’t *really* there. There may be themes and lessons but, often, an author doesn’t intend to be symbolic. Often, but not always.