Pooh! (was Re: Re: Witch week)

minnow at belfry.org.uk minnow at belfry.org.uk
Mon Nov 10 17:12:10 EST 2003

Charlie wrote:

>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.

As a child I always felt it was a book not *for*, but *at* children.

>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 think they do have other things by which they earn a crust; same as DWJ
herself, who, whilst she has in Spider Robinson's phrase "committed
criticism", probably wouldn't say it was her profession.

>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.

Maybe she feels more personally concerned with that one book than with
litcrit in general?  (I'm not sure that "dismissing" is the word: wasn't it
"dissing", which is a different thing altogether?)  Most of the books don't
have her name on the cover, after all.

>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.)

In spades, doubled, redoubled, vulnerable.  And even good critics have
off-days, and sometimes off-years or even decades, and then come back to
being comprehensible or sensible or readable....

>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!

The key word there is "relevant", I think.  If they are, then that is fine;
if they are not, then that is (what was Deborah's word again?  ah yes)
aggravating for the author, I'd suppose.

Perhaps if one relevant point is set against four or five total
missings-of-the-point, it loses its value for the author, who is left
thinking "either that was an accident, because this person obviously has no
idea what I was on about, or else it may be true but I really, really wish
it were not because I hate the idea of this person who has no idea what I
was on about being even slightly right."

Authors are by and large human too, I suppose.  Some of them.  I discount
those who write decalogies posthumously.


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