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Thursday, March 11, 2010

Literary Criticism

Remember this? In college it was my favorite course. I'd burn through test books analyzing Kinnel; Barth; THE GOOD SOLDIER; John Knowles. What did this mean and what was the leitmotif and how was it exemplified?

What happened? Today, truthfully, I look at a novel and make sure the first thirty pages are fun to read as opposed to well written; set up good characters and make me hunger for more. Non-Fiction, Arnold has covered that. So what am I going to do to refresh my critical mind? I'm going back to the classics. Since I have zero memory of what I read last night, never mind forty years ago, I am thinking I will start off easy-THE CATCHER IN THE RYE Does that count? All I remember are the ducks.

Now I finally understand why there are book clubs and notes in the back of fiction. Duh. Took me one hundred years to figure it out. And that's another one: ONE HUNDRED YEARS OF SOLITUDE-I don't remember a thing. I would love to take a year off and just read classics. Maybe when I retire that is exactly what I will do.

1 comment:

  1. Hear, hear, Sandi! Between feeling a) overwhelmed at the choice of fiction on the bookshelves b) annoyed at the breathless and grandiose comparisons publishers make on the flap and back panels of same, and c) frequently disappointed when said fiction, while perhaps being quite good, almost inevitably falls short of said breathless and grandiose comparisons, and d) conscious of great gaps in my grounding in the classics, despite having been an English major, I, too, love to return to the classics for reads that work my intellectual muscles and rarely disappoint. I recently finished Henry James's THE WINGS OF THE DOVE. Talk about stretching the mind! There were sentences that went on for literally half a page, and paragraphs that went on for a full page. At first I literally had to parse the sentence - OK, this verb goes with this subject; this clause goes with this character, etc. And I realized my attention span has become distressingly gnat-like. But I stuck with it, despite some long hiatuses (hiaiti??), and was rewarded amply - he is a true master of shades of meaning, shades of character, atmosphere and ambiance and motive. I learned so much about the level of nuance that is possible in language and storytelling. And boy, was I proud of myself when I finished.