Welcome along to the Fiction of Relationships, my blog for commenting on, or – just about – reviewing, books I’ve read. I’ve been doing this on and off in Amazon for a long time but the comments kind of disappear there and when I want to look back to see what I thought about a book, perhaps because someone else is reading it, it is often hard to find them.
Increasingly, I’m getting books for pre-publication review from the kind people at NetGalley. If a book is marked as NEW it isn’t published yet but when it is I mark it as ‘Just Published’. Books without either are published and available!
I’m interested in the nuts and bolts of popular literary criticism and I think it’s interesting to share different readings of texts in trying to understand what the writer thinks they’re about, and what they might be also about, while putting into words where they might add to what I’m about.
I’m not precious about literary criticism. I have previously got into trouble for casually describing Manon Lescaut as porn for priests and suggesting that Jane Eyre might be related to chick lit but I was only trying to stir things up a bit and move beyond the literary voice.
My view is that you can read most of what you like into texts which is why they are so enjoyable. You should not have to take on received messages or recite ‘literary’ observations to get your grade or make your point. Being totally heretical, because you are talking to a group of collaborative readers, I’m not convinced that you have to evidence with quotation and reference every assertion that you make and there are certain disciplinary practices at work in the formal practice of literary criticism which Foucault would have a laugh about.
It might also be worth remembering that literary criticism has not been going on that long, has constantly been owned by a middle-class and allegedly educated elite, and is subject to constant internal arguments about what it actually is. It also easily leads to sloppy lists of conclusions about books which are simply assumed to be true. That doesn’t of course detract from the enjoyment of talking about books you’ve read!
Finally, one of the nice things about a blog like this is the element of social construction. The reality of any book can be built by readers contributing to blogs and forums, writing fan fiction or whatever and perhaps being informed by expert voices but not necessarily led. Comments are very welcome on any of these reviews!