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Do Spoilers Matter?

Literary critic Stanley Fish stirred up the publishing world this week, dismissing the need for spoiler alerts when writing about fiction or film. He used a specific example: “If The Hunger Games is so shallow that it can be spoiled by a plot revelation, the alert doesn’t save much. If The Hunger Games is a serious accomplishment, no plot revelation can spoil it.”

Over Mulholland Books, great writers like Lawrence Block and Joe R. Lansdale have responded to his essay today–we’ve collected some of their commentary below. Follow this link to read more essays from Megan Abbott, Nick Santora, Mischa Hiller and Marcia Clark as they are released.

Lansdale wrote: This is the silliest defense for spoiling stories for those of us who don’t want them spoiled that I have ever heard. I have spoiled, accidently, a film and I was almost lynched. They were right. If it’s done to me, I feel the same … There may be those who read the last page of a book, or like the previews for films to be so precise it lets them know how it’s going to turn out, but surprise has a great place, and most of us prefer it, and if we prefer not to have things spoiled for us, a spoiler alert is a nice warning to us who would prefer not to know.  Bad journalist. Bad, dog.”

Block argued that resolution is essential to the reading experience: “Another woman I know, a writer herself and an omnivorous reader, always takes a book to bed with her, and insists that it be a mystery. It’s essential to her that her bedtime reading take place in a fictional world in which things are not left hanging. With a mystery, she can relax knowing that there will be resolution at the end. Triumph or tragedy, all will be resolved.”

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