I just ran across this on Twitter:
@TIMECulture: J. K. Rowling's new revelations about "Harry Potter" make the books look worse in retrospect http://wp.me/p5HMd-fgiN
The piece it links to (spoiler ... I think) says, in short, that as Rowling explains and reveals various details in the backstory to the Harry Potter universe, all she does is show how much material she left out and should have included, or perhaps that she is simply spinning out a lot of stuff that is just irrelevant. Which got me to thinking about a couple of things on creative work.
One is the story of a Dadaist artist (IIRC), who when questioned about the meaning of one of his pieces, answered by reciting the alphabet. What he meant, I was told, was that it wasn't his job to impose meaning on the work, but that the viewer was meant to take his own meaning. The art, in other words, meant whatever it meant for the viewer.
In another moment I remember from school, we were assigned to work on scripts for an English class. The teacher explained at one point that one should be careful of adding too many instructions behind the spoken lines. What would remain for the actor or director to interpret if every word comes with descriptions of how to deliver it? (eg: Jack: (angrily) "I won't do it!") As a matter of fact, the teacher said, look at Shakespeare's plays. Aside from instructions to enter or exit ("exeunt" -- always loved that) and the occasional clamour in distance, there are virtually no instructions at all. The writing itself should carry the meaning.
By corollary, Stephen King in his excellent little book, On Writing, wages war on adverbs, snatching away and murdering them, then burying the bodies without a trace on nearly every page. And visually, there is a rule of thumb in television news that a well-shot and edited story can be presented with only hard cuts between each shot -- no dissolves or other fancy transitions to cover jarring changes of scene or jump cuts. And if this is done right, the piece will move smoothly from one shot to the next.
So good art: make your point, present what you want. Just do it and walk away. It should speak for itself.
And that's all I have to say about that.