Lit. Crit. (was: Re: More than you ever wanted to know (was Re: answers from Diana))

Dorian E. Gray israfel at
Sat Jun 2 14:27:46 EDT 2001

Philip said...
> What it really came down to, in my case, was that Some Authors Are Not For
> Readers.

This is very true, but I would also add the codicil that Some Authors Are
Not For Some Readers At The Point At Which They Are Introduced To Them.

I look at some of the books on school English courses, and wonder what the
setters of the courses were thinking.  I was forced to read John Steinbeck's
"The Pearl" in my first year at secondary school (i.e. at age 12 or
thereabouts).  I loathed it.  It may be a wonderful book; I know lots of
peole love Steinbeck's work and think "The Pearl" is a masterpiece.  But I
hated it, and part of the reason that I hated it was that, at that stage in
my life, I didn't like books with unhappy endings.  In fact, I still don't
much like books that are unhappy all the way through, which my memory of
"The Pearl" says it is.  But at that stage, I couldn't see any reason to
write a depressing book.  And so I hated "The Pearl", and have never read
any Steinbeck since.  (Though about three years later, I read and very much
liked Orwell's "1984".)

Or, getting back to Jane Austen; "Persuasion" was one of the set books on my
brother's Leaving Cert course (I had "Silas Marner", which I quite liked).
My brother, and most of his class, loathed "Persuasion".  Having read it
myself, some years after leaving school, I really can't see much in it that
could be expected to appeal to 15 to 17 year old boys.  I don't think that
it's a great choice for a school "set book".  It certainly put my brother
right off Jane Austen.

> Like Ven, I don't like Jane Austen.  Her books may be wonderful, as my
> mother - and Hallie, who persuaded me to try one - insist.  But they don't
> - or haven't so far worked - for me.  This may be strange, as I am an avid
> of Georgette Heyer, but that's just the way it seems to work.

That is interesting.  But of course, Heyer's writing is perhaps more
accessible to a late 20th/early 21st century reader than Austen's.  Writing
styles have changed a lot since Austen was writing, and writers today would
not use a lot of the things that Austen uses (long sentences, "big words",
expository dumps, asides to the reader...).  With the result that readers
today are not used to such things, and can find them very off-putting.  I
find I do have to engage a slightly different mind-set (reading-set?) when
reading Austen (or any other pre-20th century writer) than normal.  I had to
learn to do this (huge thanks to my mother and my school English teacher for
showing me how!), but not everyone either realises that it's necessary, or
is willing to, or maybe even is able to.
> (FWIW the JA I tried was Pride and Prejudice.  I found it very strange,
> Fitzwilliam Darcy seemed to be two completely different people, and this
> the book for me, despite much of it being excellent.

Hm.  I must admit, I didn't find that.  Can you explain this a little more?
Give examples?  Darcy, it must be said, is one of my all-time favourite
romantic heroes!

> PS It was a serious question, "What is Lit Crit?"!  And no-one has
attempted to
> answer it except Gill's little comment about deconstructing clocks...

Well, I would, if I knew anything about Lit Crit!  As it is, I too am
eagerly awaiting an answer. :-)

Until the sky falls on our heads...

Dorian E. Gray
israfel at

"I feel that if a character cannot communicate, the very least he can do is
to shut up!"
--Tom Lehrer

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