The story you read when you’re 15 isn’t the same when you re-read it at 30, nor is the story you read at 30 the same when you open the book at 45.
The words don’t change. Everything else does.
You change, but who are you? Just some guy (or girl), probably. Big deal: You changed. So what?
Your perspective might change as your life develops, but there are other things that go into the differences in perception that accrue over time. Our culture tells us to value things like “love” and “honor” and even “good” differently now than it did only thirty years ago. Our culture is the water we’re all swimming in. It’s the medium through which we perceive things, and it’s always changing.
So if you read a work of substance at various points in your life, enough has changed in the surrounding culture — and in you — to say that it might as well be a different work. The story itself doesn’t really exist as such. It springs up as a sort of synthesis between reader and words. The only authoritative reading of any text happens at the level of the individual, and at one particular moment in time.
So with that in mind, how can we have such things as “classics?”
To me the only answer is this: When the writer (or actor or performer or anyone else who stands a chance of speaking truth for truth’s sake) does his or her thing adequately, they’re tapping into some great font beneath the surface of all change. Something beyond them is speaking through them. And the interpretations that change through time are all equally valid relative to the culture and individual and time.
That’s because the classic is an utterance of truth. And thus, by embracing infinite and turbulent change, we get back to thinking an affirmation of some foundation we can never quite capture, but still know is there.
Time for coffee. Have a good one.
“Eye of the Diamond-T” might not be a classic, but it’s pretty good, I think. And–among other things–it’s about stories within stories and their interpretations. I think you’ll like it. Release date is 12/13/14: http://www.diamondtbook.com