Team Murder No Brain No Headache.

25Nov/06Off

Garbage In, Garbage Out, Garbage In, Peer Review, Garbage Out

I've never agreed with any of the schools of literary criticism entirely. It's a pretty easy conclusion to come to -- when you're not grinding any interpretive axe into a molecule thick cookie cutter through which you'll see the entire universe, these things become a bit like a little pepper spray in a crowded room. When the author is actually hung up on whatever thing it is more a matter of being a balancing act between writing on topics that you're familiar with and avoiding beating those idiosyncrasies to death and also a matter of your own interpretation as a reader. Bukowski had booze, Burroughs had junk, and so on and so on. Most writers approach things with more subtlety than either of the aforementioned but there are a good number of near-canonical writers who wrote the same damned thing again and again with situational differences being the only thing that distinguishes the old from new thematically. Herman Hesse is who I think of immediately. I can forgive the authors of books though.

Anyway, obsessively myopic literature is ingrained into the pop culture consciousness in the United States; it is expected of writers the same way that erratic behavior is expected of painters or alcoholism is expected in journalists. Those habits become harder to bear when used by critics. Reading a research paper length analysis that completely disregards original context will make you want to dismember that critic as much for wasting their own time polishing turds as for wasting your own reading and trying to make sense of it. What I always neglect to consider when tearing my hair out over some utterly horrendous piece of criticism that contacts the subject at all the wrong points and seems more like smirky parody than honest engagement with a written work is that there other forces at work here.

This article about criticism in the Sunday Times made a number of scarcely used gears whir in my head. The gist of it becomes more interesting when you consider the critics bemoaning the sensationalization and duh-cultural interpretation of their own writings into headline fodder. There is some mega meta going on here and it is pretty satisfying reading for me at 2 am while fighting a gut full of leftover turkey sandwich sleep poisons. When you can't bring yourself to sleep quite yet it is trivial to sink deeply into meta-critical examinations like this as it is scathing at times and traverses familiar territory for me in terms of sheer provocation. I suppose I have an inappropriate reverence for things literary (naturally excluding science fiction and horror from the former category) that makes me cringe when an author's life is dissected for supporting arguments about the intended meaning of a text. Paris Hilton is a public figure who offers little reason for the press to pay much attention to her unless she is behaving scandalously. There is a little Art Puritan in me that believes against all rational argument that authors must be elevated slightly above this fray. The Puritan in me might be reacting to the use of the same tone and depth of analysis used for either the socialites trashing hotel rooms or the people writing books. That feels utterly wrong. Go read the whole fucking article. It made me feel a whole lot better in general about the possibility for balance between analysis and interpretation. Whether that is the intent of the author or not is not my problem at two in the morning.

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