Friday, December 08, 2006

but wait...

Okay, I really should be finishing grading a stack of finals on the synoptic gospels & John – but I can't resist drawing the interested thousands' (or the interested five's) attention to two contributions to this pleasure/difficultly discussion. First, a beautifully-turned paragraph from Eric in re/ the notion of an "ethical" element to anti-absorptive writing:
Do we really mean, perhaps, that certain kinds of literature invite the exercise of certain moral qualities or habits of character, as though we were acting towards something or in a context that really mattered, morally speaking? They allow or invite us to cultivate patience, curiosity, a taste for ambiguity, all the values of what used to be called a "liberal" education? They beseech us, in the bowels of Christ, to think it possible we may be mistaken? (To quote the butcher Cromwell, whose cannon, Joyce reminds me, were embellished with the slogan "God Is Love.") Mark, Josh, is that what you're getting at, finally?
Then from Robert at a groovy collaborative blog called "Of Looking at a Blackbird":
I can’t help feeling that criticism of immersion conceals a fear of immersing oneself in life itself, a fear of commitment. Not to mention fear of sexuality, fear of eros, fear of romance, Harlequin or not. Sure, when you take your kids to the park to play on the swings, it’s good to be meta-aware of all the sociological and class implications of what you’re doing. On the other hand, at a certain point doesn’t all that awareness become an excuse to maintain a safe and ironic distance from your own children?
Mark et al. talk about Roland Barthes’ distinction between the “readerly” and the “writerly,” and that seems exactly to the point: immersive literature is readerly and anti-absorptive is writerly. I wish I could remember what poet I was reading recently who talked about the crucial turning point in his writing that came when he realized he was not even writing the sort of poems he wanted to read. Isn't there something very curious about this fear of the terrible bourgeois corruption that will result if the writer ever dares to get into bed with the reader and share some pleasure? It seems to hide a writer’s contempt for the reader within himself, or within herself, as well as for the readers in the world.
If Eric doesn't make something of this I'll eat my rive-gauche-issue avant-garde beret.


E. M. Selinger said...

Virgilio mio! I doff my cap, tug my forelock, and otherwise thank you for leading me to Robert's comments. More on them anon, but not anonymously.


Robert said...

Thanks for bringing my blog into the discussion. Perhaps it was not a coincidence that the example that came to my mind was kids playing in a park. As Josh said on his blog today on "Vulnerablism," "That says much better what I was trying to say about anti-absorptive poetry, and even retains a hint of my initial judgment that narratives of completion and closure satisfy less-than-adult needs." Is it so shameful that some of the pleasure we take in reading comes from a childlike enjoyment of both story and language?