The Lord of the Rings is controversial in both literary and Catholic circles. At the literary level, critics dismiss it while the public loves it, regularly voting it high on various best books lists. Catholic opinion is similarly divided, some seeing it as the great Catholic novel of the 20th century while others dismiss it as boring nonsense. Both judgements miss something. The Lord of the Rings is a big, messy, and sometimes silly book, but it has a streak of genius running through it.
Post on reading, reviews, etc.
Which point of view produces the greatest intimacy between the reader and the character? Watching this debate between two writing friends led me to ask what they meant by intimacy. I propose (invoking the liberty of blogging) that there are at least three modes of intimacy between reader and character: avatar, friend, and shrink. There may be more, but these will do for now.
Really pleased to say that my first novel has been accepted for publication by Chrism Press and will see the light of day toward the end of 2021.
The Rules of Trade (The Peaceweaver, Book One), is an historical novel set in eighth-century Northumbria, just weeks after the great Viking raid on the rich monastery of Lindisfarne, which was the 9-11 of the Anglo Saxon world.
The practice of close reading a text is an interesting one. It implies that normal reading is less close. So what is the point of reading a text more closely than normal? Does it yield a better reading experience? Does it provide a window into the soul, or at least the technique of a writer? And did the writer actually compose with as close an attention to detail as the reader brings to the text when they do a close reading? Was every scintilla of meaning and technique that the close reading uncovers placed there by the writer with deliberate and conscious intent, or does the close reading uncover the tacit process of composition? Or is it in fact an imposition on the text, an invention rather than a discovery?
This post originally appeared on my other blog, Every Page is Page One in December 2018 when Baby It’s Cold Outside was the literary cause célèbre of the moment. Few, I’m sure, remember or care now, but the things I had to say on he function and responsibility of literary criticism still seem relevant, so I am reproducing it here.
The latest target of the scolding classes is a Baby It’s Cold Outside, a pop song from the 30s that is suddenly being “banned” from radio stations on the grounds that it condones rape, and, specifically, that the line “What’s in this drink?” is a reference to a date rape drug.
The accusation is absurd. As this article explains, the song is actually about the woman trying to talk herself into staying the night in the face of a list of a social taboos against her doing so, and “What’s in this drink?” is a common trope of the pop culture of its time, used to excuse saying something that violates some social norm. You are blaming your words on the booze, in other words, and the joke is that there is usually nothing in the drink.