29 sept. 2010

For a poetry guy I'm remarkably literal minded. I tend to think there's more on the literal level, the meaning of the words, that should be talked about. I liked Nabokov's approach. What kind of an insect is Gregor Samsa? What is the actual floor-plan of Borges's library. I like it when a novel puts in exact references to historical events, but very very few, so that we know when the novel is set. For example, I was telling my students that the action of a novel was probably in the 40s, and then I remembered there was a reference to the 2nd Vatican council.

There was a book about Spanish detective fiction. One novel was set in the US and featured a reference to someone named "Cid Corman." The author of the book about Spanish detective fiction, an American, made fun of the Spanish novelist for not knowing that the English-language name "Sid" is short for Sidney and is spelled with an ess. Well, what this person did not know was that Cid Corman is a real person.

There is so little real in literature that the little bit that is real has to be respected.

2 comentarios:

Joseph Hutchison dijo...

I'm with you, Jonathan. Because literary works are often taught as treasure chests full of hidden wonders that readers are supposed to unlock and unpack, we overlook their very ground of being, which is the literal. The New Critics were good at examining the literal, but critics now—not so much: its practitioners are more interested in theory than in reality, and as a result they want to avoid—or even deny—the realities outside the text that the text (code for "the author") wants to bring into our consciousness. Your story about Cid Corman is hilarious, and should remind us that readers do not in fact invent the meaning of a text: texts can be misunderstood because they are the fruit of artistic intentions. So much for the death of the author!

Jordan dijo...

Some cartoon or other (I could google it but then I would have googled it) has a character named Jack Spicer.

The show Ally McBeal had a character named John Cage.

I read both of these facts as examples of "help I'm trapped in a fortune cookie factory" syndrome.