Re: RARA-AVIS: Archer/Ross Macdonald

From: Jacques Debierue (
Date: 23 Aug 2007

--- In, Michael Robison
<miker_zspider@...> wrote:

> I am not entirely satisfied with your orgasm analogy
> for the reader experience. I understand the context
> you are using it in, but I can't help but think that
> it is reductive to the point of being misleading.
> Although there is undoubtably some unalterable primal
> response to a text, there is also a cultivated view
> which evolves with thought and discussion and exposure
> to the moral and aesthetic elements in literature. As
> a quick aside I would note that I am not saying that
> reading or studying literature necessarily makes one a
> better person.

Not a better person, necessarily, but reading widely does make you think a bit, so it's intrinsically good.

> What I am saying is that beyond just a sensual
> kneejerk reflex, reader response is a dynamic process
> that can and often is open to influence by critical
> discourse. So rather than being a secondary also-ran
> in the reading process, analysis is a major player in
> the shaping of a cultivated reader exerperience. In a
> sense, the treatise begets the orgasm.

I don't think so. In particular, thinking of a story within a given framework does change the experience. If you say "I'm reading this book, a noir book in the tradition of...", there's another you, the analytical you, reading alongside. You gain comfort, but you lose transparency in the reception of what you're reading. The name of the author alone has enormous weight if he's well known. Arts critics, including literary critics and even reviewers are hugely influenced by the name of the author (publishers are, too, of course) and the supposed niche of the book. In music, blind listening experiments have produced hilarious results... and the recent Hatto Hoax, which some of you may have heard about. It would be interesting for someone to submit, as a nobody, a Jim Thompson novel to a publisher, to see what happens. It may well get lots of rejections.

> Even allowing the orgasm analogy, I am uncomfortable
> with the statement that it and the treatise are
> entirely separate things. Note that I don't say that
> I don't believe it. I do. But so also is father
> separate from son, author separate from his work. The
> danger is in sacrificing the truth for the facts.

Now truth is a difficult concept to apply here. E.B. White wrote that the trouble with truth is its many varieties... psychological truth is unprovable and you can't argue with it. If a reader believes in the characters and situations, some sort of "truth" has been conveyed, event though a writer's profession is to tell lies.



This archive was generated by hypermail 2b29 : 23 Aug 2007 EDT