Fwd: Re: Byatt on Potter

minnow at belfry.org.uk minnow at belfry.org.uk
Fri Jul 11 07:31:20 EDT 2003

Robyn wrote:

>Both Possession and David Lodge's Small World are both a little dated now,
>because they address literary critical movements of the 1980s, so it is
>easy to make snotty comments about them with the benefit of hindsight.

I can't help feeling, from what you've said there, that these works must be
a bit parochial, if they address something that specialised?  I mean,
something dealing with a section of a small sector and that sector only in
a particular moment is bound to have a reduced interest for anyone who
wasn't in that movement at that moment, or hasn't made a study of the time
and movement.  Only a very great writer could make such matter anything
other than a bit dull for the mere mortals who don't get the allusions.  It
does seem somewhat to limit the potential audience, let's say.

It's terribly hard to think that a book being dated after less than twenty
years qualifies it as anything other than "ephemeral", really.  Maybe once
they are no longer "old hat" and have reached the point at which they can
be judged without their contemporary issues being the point people fix on,
it may be possible to decide whether they are literature or just fiction.
As it were, and allowing that we need to make that distinction (like the
one between "verse" and "poetry", I have a feeling that it is a bit
artificial anyway).

Handicapped in this: I think I have read some Lodge, but it made no impact
and I have forgotten it, and I'm fairly sure that although I read a Byatt
once because she was at my old school and I thought I'd give it a try, I
can't remember which one.  Plainly I wasn't particularly impressed, and
it's absurd to discuss texts with which one has no particular familiarity.
So my remarks above are intended as general comment not particular, and may
be doing injustice to particular texts which will come to be seen as
"classics" (possibly "classics of their time") for reasons which happened
not to impinge upon me when I read them.


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