Saturday, November 28, 2009

Here is a review of Tracing Paradise that is not necessarily unfavorable, but it does push the critic-scholar button that I have been dreading and that I knew was inevitable. The reviewer is clearly more educated than I am: I don't know what the blog's name means, and I haven't yet looked it up. I don't know what the "hermetical tradition" might be, though that apparently is this person's specialty.

I didn't copy out Paradise Lost with the intent of commenting on it critically. I didn't intend to copy it out at all. Nonetheless, the review finds my lack of interest in critiquing the poem to be a disappointment. Of course, I have been, all my reading life, disappointed with this very lack in myself. It is exactly why I have avoided writing about the books I read: because whatever I write is all about the flotsam that happens to be drifting idly around my own head. This is not only unprofessional but self-focused in a way that undoubtedly irritates real students of literature. As it should, I'm sure.

That doesn't stop me from feeling glum and cast down, however . . . and very unsure about the wisdom of trying to publish a second reading memoir.


Ruth said...

It is the "flotsam", as you call it, that reaches out to the general population. That is what makes your writing accessible to everyone; thus, giving connection possibiltiies to all our lives. I'd say that is quite an accomplishment. So "fish feathers", as I frequently say, publish away, you have a loyal following. There are far too many people making "comments on books" "ad naseum" (sp?...remember my french speaking spell-check!). It is a relief to have some one who, apparently isn't a "real student of literature. Don't be glum....celebrate being an inspiration!

Dawn Potter said...

Ruth, as always, you are the sweetest person on the planet. Nonetheless, I do not want to disagree with a reviewer simply to avoid taking responsibility for my predilections. And I think the line is difficult to negotiate: do I cling to my style because it's easier for me, or do I cling to my style because it's the source of my art? I fret over this question constantly as I write, but I never really come to a conclusion.

mariegauthier said...

What strikes me most is the grace & humility of your response, here & on the reviewer's site.

Your book's cover clearly says "A Reading MEMOIR", not "A Literary Treatise on Milton"--one can't fault you for not being something you never suggested you were.

If it makes you feel any better, the review made me want to read your book.

Dawn Potter said...

Really? Oh, Marie . . . that does make me feel better. Thank you.

charlotte gordon said...

I just read that review. First of all, she can't write. Look at her sentences. Second of all, I disagree. I straddle both worlds, the academic and the literary, and I have the right to disagree. I could not stop turning the pages of Tracing. And this is true of all my friends. You will be read by future generations in part because you are NOT a literary critic. Thank goodness.