Parlor Spider...Step In, Little Fly

Insightful thoughts and/or rants from atop the soapbox from one who wishes to share the "right" opinion with everyone.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Hie Thee From Me, Literary Critics!

"Well, have you published anything?"
"I have a blog that's almost 1,000 entries long."
(looonnnnggg pause).
"Well, I guess that IS writing."
Thus ratcheted up the pressure on me as the dean of the composition department continued my interview for a teaching position as a freshman composition instructor at a local university. It was obvious that I was an atypical respondent to an ad for a teaching position. Oh sure, I'd taught writing for a high school setting (and we all know that's just hack writing, anyway...quality? pish posh!) The master's degree that was a basic requirement? Not in composition, but in administration of physical education and athletics. I DID, however, have to pen a successful thesis, though.
I realized through the interview process that writing critics really don't know anything. really. The author of a piece knows exactly what he or she was trying to accomplish, and all the critics are just guessing...unless strict writing conventions are the basis for review. However, you and I both know that professional writers seldom follow those conventions to the letter, anyway. No capital letters? ee. cummings. No punctuation? basically the same guy and many others (whom I would name if I knew any of them!)
Writers write because they want to write. Writing specifically to educate someone? Those writers use language so obtuse (along with 50 references per page to prove they've covered their...uh...bases for factual information). Ordinary people read trashy romance novels, the occasional classic and whatever the critics write is "good."
It's like bacon.
I love bacon and don't care WHO bemoans all the bad crap inside it. Go away and let me eat it in peace. What I read and what I write is like that: I don't care if you sniff disapprovingly at my choice in either medium. I seldom look for hidden meanings and try to decipher the author's purpose though I've been trained to do that. It just doesn't matter: it's what the author wanted to do that counts, and since I've seldom met them, my guess is as good as someone else's.
There is one technique that I've found to be successful, though. If I discover a writer who moves me for some reason: endearing character, themes that I've enjoyed, phrasing that makes it entertaining to read, I email him or her. really.
I have written to at least a dozen authors and indicated just what I felt while reading and congratulating them on their mastery of their own ideas; and I've never had one fail to respond. They've all been gracious and thankful that I cared enough to comment, and a couple have even asked questions seeking my opinion on character development or plot devices.
My favorite experience involved a writer from Ireland whose protagonist was such a sleazy character (while actually trying to be the "good" person) that I could not help myself but comment that I felt like I should take a shower after reading the book. The author indicated that this was the EXACT feeling he was trying to generate...and sent me four more books personally! We exchanged emails several more times, and it was a fascinating experience to hear him discuss his thoughts instead of trying to guess.
So I generally don't care. And I don't care if people understand what I'm trying to do, but it will be fun this summer when I will be responsible for writing something to be evaluated by the other university writing professors at one of our summer meeting. I mean, these people have actually published professionally. Of course, I have not read any of their works.
Too busy with my blog.
Maybe I'll write an expose of literary criticism just to watch them offer comments.
I can guarantee that punctuation and literary conventions will not be at the top of my list of things to include.
it will mean only what I want to mean, and I will defy them to tell me it's crap (though it might be!)
Still too busy with my blog.
The eternal first draft: no revision necessary.


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