Analysis (was: Re: Introduction)

Courtney M Eckhardt cme at MIT.EDU
Sun May 7 01:36:16 EDT 2000

In message <9=UROf4HqcvoGCGNRkPpLz69=T+e at>, Melissa Proffitt writes:
>On Thu, 04 May 2000 12:04:17 -0400, Courtney M Eckhardt wrote:
>>I must beg to differ on the point about analysis causing you to lose
>>something... and now I will nobly refrain from giving a lecture on
>>art-vs.-science and why you needed some of your parreciation for something
>>because you analyzed it. :P
>How noble of you.  :)

Oh, no!  How very embarrassing... that last sentence should read: 
...and now I will nobly refrain from giving a lecture on art-vs.-science
and why you need not lose some of your appreciation for something because
you analyzed it. :P

Gah.  Perhaps I should stop writing email from work, as the connection is
so horrid I can't even keep track of my own typing.  Though I did see a
beautiful treatment of this issue once.  But I'll leave it out unless
people are really curious.

>I figure there are three possible outcomes when I re-read as an adult a book
>I loved as a child.  The first is that it's exactly as I remember it--that I
>don't get anything new out of it, that my memory is faithful.  The second is
>that I get *more* out of it--either through my changed perspective, or an
>increased understanding, or whatever.  The third is that the book is shallow
>and less interesting to my adult self.  It's this third possibility that I
>count as a loss.  While I like being an adult reader, I don't want to deny
>the reading experiences I had when I was younger--the fact that I have
>"grown up" shouldn't be reason for me to sniff disparagingly at my younger

Ah!  I can see what you mean now.  There certainly are some books that
I've decided were completely horrible from a more "adult" perspective.  
(For instance, I was a Piers Anthony junkie at the age of nine- sometimes
I frightened my teachers stiff with the books I'd carry into school!
Mercifully, my mother had no clue what I was reading, as fantasy was
beneath her, and my father didn't care because he knew I'd be exposed to
the world sooner or later and he trusted me to learn to deal with it in a
manner he considered appropriate.)

And there are some books that just don't seem quite so amazing to me
now... but I think (and all of this is condesning into my head as I write
this, so it may not be too clear), I think that all of the books that I
even mistily sensed extra layers and meanings to I still at least like for
a quick, enjoyable read.  I don't remember sensing any depth in the
Anthony novels (sorry if someone here likes him! :), and they didn't last,
for me.  But I do remember sensing some depth in the Alanna books (as a
for-instance, since they are the books we're currently shredding under a
lens :), and while they aren't quite the utter magic they were when I
first read them, I still enjoy them.  

(My copy of Lioness Rampant had a picture of Alanna on the front, face and
shoulders only, her hair blowing in wild red disarray with a few smallish
untidy braids in it to keep the front bits out of her face, the earbobs in
her ears, wearing a practical olive/dark army green canvaslike shirt with
short sleeves and lots of pockects, bracers and fingerless gaunlets on her
hands, and holding the Dominion Jewel cupped in both hands right under her
chin.  The Jewel was the same color as her eyes, which stared intently
straight out of the cover at you.  It was a pretty amazing picture, and I
could stare at it for hours.  I even tried to draw it myself a few times,
but that didn't work. :/ )

>Analysis *in itself* doesn't make me lose anything--in fact, I prefer it and
>I enjoy it more than just shallowly skimming through a book.  But when it
>comes to books that have worn a groove in my brain like those childhood
>favorites, I can usually choose whether or not I'm going to slip back into
>that groove or take a more active approach.  And when it comes to that third
>type of book--the one that seemed Really Deep when I was a kid and now is
>just...bland--the act of analysis ALWAYS makes me lose the sense of wonder I
>first had.  If the book is shallow enough, it's not worth the trade; I would
>rather retain that sense of wonder than gain an in-depth analysis of a
>crappy book.

Ah, I understand now.  A slightly different approach than I've taken.  In
fact, now that I think about it, there are some books that I find
*memories* of distasteful... to once again abuse poor Mr. Anthony, while I
was a total junkie at the time, I go back now and examine those memories
and I can remember the wonder, but when I look at the *memories* of the
book (rather than actually rereading the book) I find the book
distasteful!  For all of that, though, I can't currently think of an
instance of a book that I loved and now find to be unredeemably shallow
where I can't rememnber why I loved it at the time.  It's just that even
though there are some situations where it's almost impossible for me to
*not* regress, there are apparently some where it is impossible for me
*to* regress.  How very odd.  I had never realized this before.

(In case anyone's curious, I was an Anthony junkie because I was always
very good at reading and gotten to the point, long about nine or ten years
old, where I was dying for books look and complicated and exciting enough
to keep me occupied.  I had never been much a fan of the "reccomended"
children's fiction- I wanted strange places and stranger people, dragins,
unicorns, mages, and princesses, and those were not in vogue at the time-
the sort of "real life fiction" where everything takes place very
definately in our world, was what there was... and then, wandering
desperately around the bookstore, faced with teh prospect of *wasting* a
precious and rare trip to that wonderful place because I could find
nothing I wanted to buy, I saw a book cover with a unicorn on it in the
pocket fiction section... and I was hooked.)

>The example I keep coming back to lately is Tamora Pierce's Alanna series.
>It's not crappy at all, of course, but it's one of those things that doesn't
>hold the same pleasure for me now as it did when I was twelve.  The main
>reason for this is that it was one of the first "feminist" series I'd ever
>read, and it was just incredible.  Now, it hasn't changed at all, but (in
>the course of fifteen more years of feminist reading) *I* have.  And if I
>get to looking too closely at it (because I do reread it on occasion) I can
>feel little bits of that memory disappearing and being replaced with
>criticism--"I can't BELIEVE she wrote it that way, that's so cliched!" or
>"Come ON, there is no such thing as identical boy-girl twins!"

Hmm, yeah... I had that experience a little bit today while reading Wild
Magic for the first time.  But I also found myself getting more of other
things out of the book that I wouldn't have seen before... and once I get
my copies of the rest of the Lioness Quartet I'll see if I'm getting more
out of those, too.

>It's possible--and probably healthier--to look at this as a trade rather
>than a loss; it all balances out in the end.  And I think I could use that
>memory to come up with a really good analytical review for young readers.
>It's only a loss to me, personally, as a reader.  Those few years when I was
>just hitting puberty, and everything seemed so intense and was
>probably all hormonal, because I've never had that happen since with any
>book; books still affect me deeply, but in a totally different way.  So in a
>way, everything I read during that time is part of a closed universe,
>nonreplenishable, unchanging--unless I trip that balance.  On the whole, I'd
>prefer not to.

Wow!  You know, I never realized there was a sort of intense teenage
hormonal time like you're describing for me, but I think I was lucky
enough  to read Fire and Hemlock all the way through for the first time
during it!  Wow.  Neat.  :)

>>Wow, that's a lot different from me- I know that I read *at least*
>>Archer's Goon, Howl's Moving Castle, and Fire and Hemlock when I was far
>>too young for them.  (In fact, if anyone's interested, I can tell a rather
>>spine-tingling story about the first time I actually made it through all
>>of Fire and Hemlock.)  (There were also other, non-DWJ books that I read
>>or tried to read much too young- part of me suspects Ivanhoe suffered
>>terribly from being read by a naieve 11 or 12-year-old, and the rest of me
>>suspects that it can't have been that good anyway. :P )
>I'm *positive* _Ivanhoe_ was one of mine.  And all of Dickens.  But
>_Treasure Island_ was just awful.  Lots of classics, oddly enough...and I
>was so embarrassed at not liking them; after all, it's the mark of being an
>educated person, right?  So frivolous of me to prefer young adult fantasy

I managed okay with A Christmas Carol (seeing Mickey in my head constantly
:), but the rest of Dickens was totally lost on me.  And I hate Treasure
Island, though I tried hard to read it several times.  I agree, that so
many "classics" are really awful... Actually, I get bothered about Poetry
and Art the same way I do about Classics- lots of people at least try to
*pretend* that they love Art or Poetry or the Classics and will gush
in a starry-eyed and content free manner occasionally to prove that
they're Cultured.  For a long time I was so cranky and bitter about these
pseudointellectuals that I totally loathed Art, Poetry, and Classics.
I've got over that somewhat, but I still dislike a lot of the things
you're supposed to like to be Cultured.  I guess I'm just an unrepentant
Phillistine.   Not even housetrained.  Can't take me anywhere. :)

I got the "you shoudl leave off that silly fantasy stuff and read the
Classics- you're so good at reading you just *waste* it on that drivel!"
treatment from friends, teachers, parents... just about everyone.  For a
while there (about the time I dicovered Mr. Anthony) I went through a
classics phase where I tried to read a whole bunch of books people told me
were classics- partly to get them to leave me alone and partly out of the
abovementioned deperation.  But I never let them stop me from reading the
drivel- and I'm glad I didn't.

I was surprised to find I liked some of the classics, though- I fell
utterly in love with A Girl Of the Limberlost, though it was such a
*heavy* feeling book to read that I read it only once because one I was
done I returned it to the library and let the story stew in my mind for a
good long while- and then I had to go to the junior high and have never
since had access to a copy.  But I'm going to buy one soon- and I just got
a paycheck!  Hmm.

>>Because these books have so many layers to them, I read things on a very
>>superficial level and loved them (Archer's Goon and HMC, anyway), and went
>>on reading and rereading them.  In fact, I read them on such superficial
>>levels that the endings confused me.  And every time I reread them, I
>>would try to get more out of them, but it was difficult because my
>>brain was "stuck in a groove", as it were.  In fact, until I joined this
>>list, I didn't realize how much I was missing, I was that stuck!  (This
>>means I owe you all a great Debt of Gratitude. :)
>I accept cash donations.  :)

But it's illegal to send cash in the mail- do you take checks? ;)

>> The trouble is that, at
>>least for me, it takes both *knowing * that I'm stuck viewing something as
>>the child-that-was *and* a large effort to enable me to get myself out of
>>that rut.  
>I see your point.  I'm an adult reader of DWJ, of course, so my confusion
>over endings is pure stupidity on my part.  :)  But I class all her books as
>ones that are so multi-layered that (well, okay, maybe just for me) losing
>that superficial-only reading for a more complex one is always and only a
>bonus.  It's when there *isn't* anything more to a book than the superficial
>that "going deeper" might not be entirely pleasant, I think.

I concur totally.  DWJ's books can only improve on further acquaintance.
And if you don't think so, put'em, pal! :P

>>Now all I need to do is acquire a copy of Fire and Hemlock (ha! easier
>>said than done, in this fiction-forskaen land where "My Story" by M.
>>Lewinsky was a bestseller), and then I can try it again, too.  And maybe
>>add something to previous discussions on it here.
>I think you've already added a lot.  :)  I'll keep an eye out for a copy for
>you--I see them occasionally.  (And speaking of hard-to-find books, that
>reminds me that I should probably steal my in-laws' copy of _Sorcery and
>Cecilia_ before it completely disintegrates.  They are complete Philistines
>when it comes to taking care of books.)

Oh, would you?  I'd *really* appreciate it.

Speaking of which, if anyone needs Time of the Ghost I can get you a
hardback edition for $7 US plus postage... there's a place here in town
that currently has two copies available.

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