Sunday, January 07, 2007

From The Stacks Status Report

Two of the books on my TBR challenge list dealt with literary analysis of specific literary works. The titles, The Battle for Middle Earth and The Things That Matter, have both been attempted but without, quite frankly, much success. Neither discussion has really resonated with me. In the case of the former, I overestimated my level of interest in the theological analysis of the Lord of the Rings (book and films). In the case of the latter, I am faced with the fairly common gap between interpretation of classic works when read by a university professor and the rather common-place interpretations of an ordinary reader. I doubt I'll get through The Battle for Middle Earth (at least within the time frame set for the challenge) -- but even having gotten through the bulk of The Things That Matter, I'm not sure what I'll have to offer in reaction to it.

This is when this quote I found in November comes back to haunt me a bit, specifically this part where author Zadie Smith likens the reader to an amateur musician at the piano:

"An amateur musician who sits at the piano, has a piece of music, which is the work, made by somebody they don’t know, who they probably couldn’t comprehend entirely, and they have to use their skills to play this piece of music. The greater the skill, the greater the gift that you give the artist and that the artist gives you. That’s the incredibly unfashionable idea of reading."

The niggling concern is whether my negative reaction to an expert's analysis of Jane Eyre is due to my own failure to properly engage with the text or due to a legitimate disagreement between two rational adult readers.

Oh, who has the time to worry about it anyway? Generally speaking, I just close my eyes and jump.