13 February 2007

Of note

It's been virtually impossible to get much done around here without having the internet at home. I'm currently on a waiting list that may take another month (!), so posting will continue to be sporadic for awhile. Nevertheless, I still have the notes from my favorite session at Cartagena to post...and I'm enjoying Cortázar hugely. What saves my sanity during the workday are the brief times I can duck into this cool, quiet computer room and read what's going on at the blogs over on the left... Here are a few bits and pieces that caught my eye today.

~ Tori Amos talks to Alan Light about putting together A Piano: The Collection. (I've always loved the comparison of songs on an album to chapters in a book.)

~ I have to agree with the esteemed proprietor of The Literary Saloon--putting all world literature onto separate shelves isn't the way to go. (I'd even say that the existing shelves would be gutted too significantly--what's the point?) But I loved exploring the site he recommended as an alternative: Reading the World.

~ Bud Parr points to an excellent piece on The Slow Reading Movement. Waters writes,

I am convinced that most speed-reading is impaired reading, just like the sort you do when you have a fever or are tired or engaged in other tasks at the same time you are supposed to be reading. Unless you are very smart, speed-reading forces you to ignore all but one dimension of a literary work, the simplest information. What we lose is the enjoyment that made people turn to literature in the first place. [...]

There is something similar between a reading method that focuses primarily on the bottom-line meaning of a story in a novel and the economic emphasis on the bottom line that makes automobile manufacturers speed up assembly lines. If there is any truth to the analogy, it provides grounds for concern. [...]

The issue is more than just savoring literary experience. I am suggesting that there is more than meets the eye in reading, literally. If we attend to the time of reading, we might notice that our relationship to a literary work changes over time. One consequence is that we begin to be charitable to "bad" readers, whether they are our students, our acquaintances, or our former selves. Most important, though, we learn to drop the idea that we can neatly distinguish good from bad reading because we realize that, at some time in the past, we were not up to reading a particular work. Or perhaps we see that while we missed a great deal, we did respond strongly to parts of the work. It begins to make sense, then, to track our career with a certain work, in order to open it up as literature.
UPDATE: The Little Professor offers a sound critique of this piece, questioning the connection between speed reading and literary criticism. Although I agree with her points, I must confess that what really appealed to me about the article was his stance regarding certain academic approaches to literature (and the dearth of close reading): "Thematic approaches to literature have triumphed, emphasizing the moral of the story over formal and aesthetic analyses. At the college level, earnestly moral or political readings have pushed aside the pleasure of waywardness in plot and rhyme." I think the connection between the mentality behind "bottom-line" capitalism and these "thematic approaches" to literature is valid. Reducing works of art to culture, morals, or politics is similar to how erroneous readings surface in other camps (such as with certain right-wing fundamentalists). People ban books (in part) because of simplistic approaches to literature. Why not encourage the complexity of authentic reading experiences? (This is probably what I should've said in the first place!)

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