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Beyond the Blurb: On Critics and Criticism. Published by Cow Eye Press
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08/16/2004

Comments

Dan Wickett

"will ever really be an interest shared by more than a small, if ardent, minority. And, if not, whether this would be such a bad thing."

Interesting question Dan. I for one, don't have a problem with it not growing. My reasoning for such could not be less literary, but I use hockey as an example.

Hockey has always been considered one of the big four sports due to having a major league. It has always been a distant fourth to the other three, even when basketball was not thriving. Those of us that truly loved hockey though, considered it the best of the sports. The fast paced action, and combination of finesse and brutish actions, was the perfect mix.

When hockey decided it needed to attract a larger audience, and specifically, an audience to attract a national television contract, they began tweaking the rules of the game. They made goal scoring easier. They removed many of the aspects of the game that led to fighting (because in America, violence doesn't sell???) from the game. It became a shell of what it once was.

If publishers began smoothing out those "difficult" books in order to garner larger audiences, I believe the same thing would happen to this form of recreation that I sat through watching happen to hockey.

Would I like to see those who write what I enjoy get paid an amount that would allow them to do nothing but write, and not have to teach, or make cabinets, or whatever it is they do to get food on their tables? Of course. But I don't really want to see their writing suffer to get to that lifestyle. Selfish? I suppose. I'm sure none of those writing 'literary' works went into it expecting a gold lined road though.

As always, thanks for provoking some smoke to come from my ears while the gears took time to grind.

Enjoy,

TEV

Dan, I'm sure you've checked it out already but your readers might want to visit In Writing (www.inwriting.org), where Stephen Mitchellmore has been writing rather eloquently about why he likes who he likes ...

Robert Nagle

A cultural reference can stay alive despite the fact that people aren't familiar with its origin. Take mythology. They are usually simplified retellings of an expertly-told tale. This morning, someone asked me to list the 5 most important novels of all time, and I was tempted to include Edith Hamilton's Greek Mythology because it retells a lot of great stories from the stories (and inspires people to locate the originals--Next year I plan to read a lot of Ovid and Greek dramatists). Parody/retelling is one sign that stories are staying alive. Comic book versions of classics do wonders for keeping alive interest, and Quentin Tarrentino once said that he knew his films had attained classic status where they were being parodied in porn films.

By taking this approach, we risk demeaning the close textual analysis that justifies the existence of English departments. We also raise the question about whether Shakespeare or Odysseus can properly claim credit for creating stories, or whether these stories emerged from the collective unconscious or from Jungian archetypes.

Obviously, Walden is a little different because it's nonfiction and is more observational and less concerned with storytelling. (Disclosure: I haven't read it either). Perhaps one of the reasons why Walden is been iconified is that society is changed; it's harder to retreat into nature (what with the Walmarts and Blockbusters), and the very reason we might search for Walden is to return to a time when we could escape from urban sprawl and the latest time-waster, the Internet.

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