But it is the same book.
And naturally these incidents bring up again questions of what people see when they read a book, and why one person sees one pattern and nothing at all of another pattern, and how odd it is to have, as author, such a clear picture of a book, that is seen so very differently by its readers.
And from this kind of thought has emerged a new conclusion: which is that it is not only childish of a writer to want readers to see what he sees, to understand the shape and aim of a novel as he sees it — his wanting this means that he has not understood a most fundamental point. Which is that the book is alive and potent and fructifying and able to promote thought and discussion only when its plan and shape and intention are not understood, because that moment of seeing the shape and plan and intention is also the moment when there isn’t anything more to be got out of it.
And when a book’s pattern and the shape of its inner life is as plain to the reader as it is to the author — then perhaps it is time to throw the book aside, as having had its day, and start again on something new.
Doris Lessing, “Preface,” The Golden Notebook, 1971
In context, Lessing is talking about readers’ radically different responses to her novel, The Golden Notebook.
But it might be a case of the universal in the particular.
Found thanks to Anna Holmes, “Can You Read a Book the Wrong Way?” NYT 9.27.2016.