Monday, 26 May 2008

reading log number whatever

Since my last confession I have read exactly half of Let's Talk About Love: a journey to the end of taste by Carl Wilson, it's frustrating me quite badly because the type is so small and also because the author is not doing what I require of him, namely explaining why having (elitist) tastes is a Bad Thing as we are now so often assured is the case. Well, I will persist, and if I get to the end and find out the answer I will be sure to let you know. ON a not wholly unrelated matter D & I went to see the new Indiana Jones movie and I after about ten minutes I began to feel it actually making me dumber.

Another book that tried hard to make me dumber but didn't entirely succeed was Jane Austen's Guide to Dating: the Regency Rules by Lauren Henderson. And my mind is made up: the Austen paraliterature proect is going to concentrate only on the Austen themed self-help books, of which there are at least six, and which mainly focus like this one on what sorts of principles for managing ones love life can be gleaned from Austen's novels. (None so far as I'm aware extend the advice farming to her minor works which you will agree is a good thing if you have read "Jack & Alice", or "Lesley Castle" or "The Beautifull Cassandra" or any of the other stories where the heroine is much addicted to the bottle & dice, steals fifty pound notes from her uncle's writing desk, or punches a confectioner in the face so she can devour his icecreams with impunity.) I could hardly bear to read this book all the way to the end but I did find it really fascinating in a warped and warping way. For one thing, none of the other paralit stuff I've seen is so persistently engaged with reading and interpreting the actual novels. It usually treats the novels more as a jumping-off point. Another way the self-help stuff it is both like and unlike 'normal' literary criticism is that it seems to assume that one reason you read fiction is to improve yourself, an idea critics now don't seem to want to acknowledge has some appeal to it. There are historical links between Austen's sort of book and the old advice manuals for young ladies, then called conduct books. Maybe these self-help things are re-opening that connection. Anyway I will now need to read the Xtian ones and the teenager ones as well as the (ugh) keeping your marriage alive ones.

I finally got my hot little hands on a copy of Noblesse Oblige, edited by Nancy Mitford, and I scarfed it down in a couple of hours, what an excellent little book, certainly deserves its own post and I'll try to find time to give it one.

Finally I have been reading myself to sleep with chapters of Reshaping the Sexes in Sense and Sensibility by Moreland Perkins, a book which makes the perhaps slightly whimsical argument that Elinor Dashwood is the first female intellectual and remains one of the only to be drawn in fiction, and more generally that Austen in this novel is engaged in the most radical taking apart of contemporary gender norms she ever undertook. Moreland Perkins is a philosopher. I'm liking it because he argues by methods which are quite different to standard literary-critical ones (he's much more scrupulous about understanding what the ryhthm of a character's thought processes tells us about them than just about anything else I can remember reading, for instance) but he also makes claims about the innovativeness of S&S which I think are probably a bit exaggerated. The good and bad things about the book both flow from the most unusual thing about it, namely the way it doesn't situate its arguemnt in acritical or a literary-historical context. It just takes the book as an utterance and reads it, at 'face value'.

6 comments:

Pavlov's Cat said...

Moreland Perkins sounds like a Henry James character.

lucy tartan said...

Does rather - no, does exactly.

Amanda said...

Weeeel, from memory he never explains why having (elitist) tastes is a Bad Thing because he doesn't think it is. Maybe Wikipedia?

Tim said...

I stopped reading Carl Wilson's blog for much the same reason as you have stalled in reading his book.

Ray Davis said...

Well, clearly not having elitist tastes is a good thing insofar as it lets one enjoy more of life than one might otherwise enjoy. But just as clearly it's not any sort of "brave" achievement that calls for self-back-patting: enjoyment is its own reward.

lucy tartan said...

I'd call the sort of taste which narrows horizons exclusive, rather than elitist.