[DWJ] A revelation of... the ending of Roger Ackroyd

Minnow minnow at belfry.org.uk
Mon Jul 24 13:13:35 EDT 2006

Elizabeth Bentley wrote:

>>> My daughter is doing an Open University degree, studying linguistics, and
>>> one of the set books does that very thing (Exploring the language of poems,
>>> plays and prose by Mick Short, in case you want to avoid it). She told us
>>> about it in great indignation the other day. But I guess academic books are
>>> like that!

"rohina at shaw.ca" retorted waspishly:

>> Good academic books aren't. But, hey, thanks for the lovely assumption
>> about academic readers all being jerks.

The guilty flee where no man pursueth.  Let the galled jade wince.  If the
cap fits, wear it.  And do *try* not to be so hyper-sensitive!  That wasn't
what Elizabeth wrote nor even what she could be read as having implied: she
was commenting on the books, not on the readers of the books, as is clear
from it having been a reader-of-the-book who was reported by her as having
been pissed off by it.

Elizabeth then wrote:
>I most certainly did not man to imply that - more that academic discussion
>of anything might tend to assume knowledge. I know on the child_lit list
>there are regular  discussions about the need or otherwise for spoilers, and
>usually the consensus is that while it is considerate for newly published
>books it is unnecessary for books which have been out for several years, and
>certainly Roger Ackroyd falls into that category.
>Apologies to anyone who feels I was criticising academics.

(Properly speaking, to criticise something should be to make a balanced
estimation or judgement of its worth.  So you didn't.  But even in the
sense more often used, "to rip to bits", I don't see that you did this.)

digression obDWJ, does that honorary doctorate (awarded last Friday) make
her an academic, or is it her having been an external expert and
marker-of-theses-on-children's-literature for Bristol University over a
couple of decades that might put her into that category?  end of digression

In the first place, I see no need for apology: I don't think you were
criticising academics, particularly.  In the second place, why shouldn't
one criticise academics, even in an unfriendly way, for goodness' sake?
Academics do it all the time.  I really don't feel any need to come all
over defensive on behalf of *all* academics, particularly not when the most
vicious and virulant attacks on academics are generally launched by other
academics.  :-)  And there is absolutely no doubt that some academics *are*

As an academic, I felt that you were making a perfectly valid comment about
a particular academic attitude, but an attitude which at least some other
academics would agree with and indeed defend (me included).  Books about
books do tend to discuss the whole of a text, and not to leave out the
ending on the grounds that the student may not have read it yet: the
student damn' well *ought* to have read it, if it's on the syllabus, before
starting to discuss it.

In fact, it's generally regarded as unacademic behaviour to comment on a
work one hasn't read...

So I'll just add that it sounds as if Short's isn't a book about a
particular set text, and in that case I do slightly feel that Short might
have had the grace to have refrained from giving away an ending that is the
crux of a book: he could have found another example to use, I would have
thought, unless the subject was quite specifically "totally unexpected
twists at the end", in which case someone is bound to have not-yet-read at
least one of the examples.


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