King Midas Is What Is Wrong With Readers – Op-Ed Piece


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King Midas Is What Is Wrong With Readers – Op-Ed Piece


There are a lot of problems that writers have with readers. Oh, yeah, you readers thought all the wordsmiths, poets, and screenwriters are talking nice about you and that we love you. Well, we don’t. After we ask you to buy our book for the tenth time (it’s really good, I swear!), we then complain about your misjudgment of our masterpiece (I mean, I think it’s one). You didn’t understand our point. You missed the message to the book! You read the sequels before the first one!

Damn you, reader. You are an ever-growing enigma that a writer must deal with on a daily basis. On the one hand, the writer needs to have a reader; for who will read those decent words by the writer? I can’t read these words by myself. I need someone to read this crap and then comment on some typo or random thoughts they had while reading it. Whether I am talking about characters like the Ghostbusters and Santa or going on a rant about the pope or the president, no readers mean that a writer is not writing. And we are all stuck teaching English classes to bored students or working in an office for an unbearable boss. That sounds like a Stephen King book.


It’s called The Wolf, and it is about an English teacher who gets so upset that he has to reread Shakespeare, as no one appreciates his novel, that he flips out while reading Macbeth and becomes a werewolf and starts to kill the kids one at a time. He kills them in the same fashion that MacBeth did his enemies because he is clever like that. There is also a ghost of Mark Twain in the story, too, because it’s a Stephen King book, and at one point, you are jumping off a cliff with him. The monster began as man, but now it is the convoluted, confusing plot point that you have to follow. How do you beat the cure of the werewolf that the Shakespeare hack now has? How do we prevent more kids from being murdered by this mad monster? Obviously, you have to find a hidden poem by Dickinson that only the janitor who works in the creepy basement knows about and read it aloud to the Twain ghost, which will kill the werewolf. Why? Because this is a Stephen King book. That’s why.

Let’s get back to something more reasonable, though—my criticism of you, the misinformed reader.


Readers have this thing inside of them that, for some strange reason, form other things that I can’t really control. I have asked doctors why a reader doesn’t just like my work. Why do they not just recite my lines word for word? Why are they creating their own thoughts when they are talking about mine? Can we fix that? No. That is their brain working, and some people evidently use this thing. I told him that we should remove it from some people, but the doctor said we can’t cause that would kill them. I stopped there. I am not a politician. Dead readers don’t help me. So I am stuck dealing with readers who like to use their brains! It is a burden I will carry.

Sometimes the readers take books to places that the author would never have taken them, and the author is left grinning about it all as if the unique interpretation was theirs alone.

Authors are pretty smart, some are even good, but not many of them can admit to understanding some of the reader’s thoughts on their own work.

It’s like you want to look at the reader and ask them, “Did you actually read the book? Are we talking about the same book? You aren’t talking about another book that I didn’t write or don’t know of because I have no idea why after reading through all those pages of my book, that you would come to that conclusion. It’s baffling, and I think we should examine your brain.”

I personally don’t mind when readers completely get the concept that I was talking about wrong. When they are more off base than a caught base runner, let them have their own thoughts. It amuses me, and I am all for it. For my own works, I have no quarrel here. The fact that this happens everywhere is where I say no. Or as they say in other languages, “No.” (Turns out no is a universal concept)

There is one example of this whole thing that I want to discuss now.

King Midas.


You may be familiar with the King. He has a son and tries to help him establish his throne, but in the son’s youth, he gets killed by his bitter uncle leaving the son alone on a journey of redemption. Oh wait, that is Mufasa. Or is it Hamlet? Mufasa Hamlet?

King Midas is known for his gold. We use the man’s name and the expensive item as synonyms. Like Batman and Robin, King Arthur and the Holy Grail. King Midas needs to have his gold at this point. It is his thing. Without his gold, we don’t talk much of him. This connection between a man and an item too expensive for me to buy proves how much an interpretation of a story can shape our telling of it.

Let’s get an overview of the actual story;

Here is the story that I grew up with learning. King Midas was a powerful king and then got the “golden touch” and turned everything he wanted to gold. This was quite fun for the guy, so he did just that. You thought lottery tickets and gambling gave people a thrill? Imagine having a golden touch. Midas did this charade until he got hungry and wanted to eat because kings need to eat too. When he touched his food, it also turned to gold. He then starved because he could no longer touch anything without it turning into gold. That, ladies and gentlemen, is irony. King Midas must be related to Alanis Morrisette and O. Henry cause that right there is about as ironic as it gets. That should be a show, “The Ironic Family,” featuring the misadventures of King Midas, Alanis Morissette, and O. Henry. And then there could be Bender from Futurama checking in on the trio to make sure that all of the stories are ironic. (Man, I am really coming up with some weird digressions today)


There are other variations to the Midas story, but this is the one that I know of, so I am sticking to this version for now.

If I say to you, “Whatever he touches turns to gold,” you probably don’t think I am speaking literally. I am speaking figuratively.

I am really saying that he is a great businessman, he knows how to make money with whatever he uses. He is crafty with paper and good at growing profits. It is a compliment that I am sure many rich businessmen would like to hear said of them. I have heard in the sports world, analysts say of coaches, “He turns his teams into winners,” and that has the same effect here. It is a metaphor to explain the greatness of the person. You get that I am not talking about a man who walks around touching things, and they magically turn to gold. That is taking the phrase too literally and missing the original point (the compliment to the businessman). If a coach goes to a new team, you know that I mean that the coach will help the team become more competitive, not change their chemical makeup.

Now what happens in the King Midas story is that he overdoes it with touching things and loses his own life. The literal and popular story is that the guy’s touch is what killed him. He turned everything into gold, so he then couldn’t eat, because you can’t eat gold, no matter how valuable it is, so he starved. By making it literal, we don’t see the deeper meaning and original message the author was conveying.


If a businessman who is smart enough to make money dies from starvation because he turned too many things into gold, you are talking of King Midas’s mindset. It is not saying that he died in a literal sense, but more of a spiritual or emotional sense. By focusing on only making money, he killed himself. It is a much more critical look at money and business than the story we are told. His touch is not the problem, but the general way he goes about himself is what kills him. He made everything about money and business and, therefore, lost a part of who he was. It is actually what Dickens said happened to Scrooge; the money got the best of him.

And from what we know of money, this is a good tale to tell people. Don’t make making money your main focus in life because you will miss another part of it. My interpretation of the story de-emphasizes the gold and make the business side more of a priority.

And that is my problem with readers; you took something out of context and ran with it. The story is not a lesson but more of a funny tale we tell now. We never think of the story as the warning against the greed that it originally was written for, but a creative story about gold that is family-friendly and easy to read.

We think that King Midas was about a man literally touching things and turning them into gold. And by thinking that way, we are missing the point to it all.


As I said, I don’t take this too personal when a reader does this with stuff I write, but when it is done across the board, there is a problem; like taking an analogy literally type of problem.

Ending

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Greg Luti is an editor and blogger on pensandwords.com. He wrote this piece using the internet. He blames the internet for any errors you find here.

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