An ice-axe to break the sea frozen inside us

imaginationThe New York Times continues to offer age-old questions that can be answered in as may ways as the wind blows. This week it was Should Literature Be Considered Useful? This, of course, begs the question of whether we should consider this question useful, let alone ask what we mean by literature. I suppose no one would even consider asking if art was useful (a good painting can hide those pesky nail holes left by the not-as-good painting you gave to the Animal Shelter for their annual fund raiser).

Doing a mind dump about literature I know that it generates many jobs—writer, publisher, editor, bookseller, etc.—and has a huge secondary market in the folks that purchase the books, read the books, and study the books in school (not to mention the billions and billions of reading groups on the internet). But what do they say in Bookends?

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How Relevant Is the Author’s Biography?

CopperfieldThe Bookends article in the New York Times Book Section this week is titled, When We Read Fiction, How Relevant Is the Author’s Biography? If you’re not familiar with Bookends you can think of it as a Crossfire for Books and writing (or you could consider Crossfire as a Bookends for politics and government). I read Bookends regularly and often find the two arguments enlightening, but not always mutually exclusive. This week’s question, however, is an old concern of mine and since the article started right out referencing the New Criticism, I felt a strong need to absorb the two sides and make my own comments.

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APRIL is the cruellest month

The New York Times Book Review has a regular feature where two, usually very different, authors respond to a question like: is there too much violence in graphic novels; or, which Ayn Rand novel did you find most ridiculous; or even, what pop-up books do you remember from your childhood. This week the question was

Which Books From Your Past Do You Read Now With Ambivalence?

EliotFirst up was Adam Kirsch who contended that “The Waste Land, with its showy references and sexual dread, seems like a kind of young person’s performance.” Kirsch in a side note also appeared to agree with me in suggesting that The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock was juvenile fluff but valuable to use when introducing poetry to the young and dumb (well, maybe he didn’t go that far but then again, I did say it was a suggestion and not a firm statement).

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