Witch week

hannibal at thegates.fsbusiness.co.uk hannibal at thegates.fsbusiness.co.uk
Mon Nov 10 06:16:50 EST 2003

>Though the Pooh Perplex is troubling in other ways. The implication of 
>PP and its recent sequel is that trying to find deep meanings in 
>children's lit is silly. Which we all agree, it isn't. 

I agree with Hallie's and Roger's replies to this vis-a-vis the PP (and sequel) as being primarily a parody the monomania of some critics, rather than a scoffing at Winnie the Pooh. But I'm sure it's also surely true that Crews' choice of Pooh was a considered one, and it's hard to believe that its being a book for children wasn't a factor in that choice. On the other hand (what a fence-sitter I am) there are other children's classics which couldn't be used in the same way (The Alice Perplex? The Wind in the Willows Perplex?) because they clearly are complex, multilayered, 'deep' works. So - it's not that children's literature is automatically risible as a category for critical analysis, more something about Pooh itself. As to what, I'm not sure I'd be able to say! Something to do with Milne's voice, perhaps, and the comic philosophizing of his characters, which renders those critics who take them seriously equally comic.
>On a similar note, I got very irritated but the recent DWJ article in 
>SFX (which I had my sister send to me: "you can buy it, and read the 
>David Boreanaz / Joss Whedon article, and tell everyone it's for your 
>sister so you're not a dork"). She rather rips on Exciting and Exacting 
> I was flattered initially and then I read it ... all this stuff 
> about post-modernism and deconstruction -- some of it seems to 
> be somebody running beside and simply not noticing what I was 
> doing. I wish I could have supressed the lot, actually. 
>Now, I know that there's an unwritten rule that authors 
>have to pretend/feel scholarly criticism misses the boat. But DWJ has 
>written scholarly criticism herself. "The Heroic Ideal" about her own 
>work, and "Shape of the Narrative" about Tolkein. So it stings more 
>than it would from a different author. She's putting on a face for the 
>magazine, and it's aggravating. 
>Yes, there are some very obscure pieces in the volume, but unless she's 
>quoted way out of context, she's dissing the entire concept of analysis 
>of literature. And I didn't get into this business because I care what 
>authors think (or I'd be in the wrong business!) but it is aggravating, 
>as I said, coming from someone who's *written* crit. 

Not only has DWJ written crit, but several members of her immediate family do it very succesfully for a living: I'd be surprised if she were dismissing their collective professional achievement. I haven't seen the SFX article yet (I've got it on order), but from the bit you quote it looks rather as if it's specifically the EAEW book she's dismissing, rather than lit crit as a whole. Which is certainly a shame, because I would say that there are some pretty good essays in there, along with a couple of stinkers and a few plodders - which has always been about the average strike-rate for collections of academic essays. (It's certainly not a phenomenon associated with the rise of postmodernism - as anyone who's looked at few such volumes from the 1950's will attest.)
Of course we should care what authors think - personally I've a lot of time for the concept of Authorial Intention  - but that doesn't mean that critics can't make relevant observations and discoveries about a text that had not consciously occurred to the author. Oddly enough that's a point made on the very last page of EAEW - and it's made by DWJ!

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