Friday, July 31, 2015

Two For Ben

I finally finished and sent along books for my second son.
The daily strip has its home over at Radio Free Babylon. This is a collection of the first year or so.

The Amazon reviews are almost uniformly five-star.  I'm only going to four. The old Sunday-School art works wonderfully in the context, and I did laugh out loud every few pages. Wilkie does a wonderful send-up of dumb things Christians say, and keep saying. They occasionally sting, as they should.  My only objection is that one can tell after a while who is not going to be teased/accused.  The cartoonist makes an effort to poke fun at everyone in some strips, but it rings a little false.  He knows he should be evenhanded, but really, he has his favorite targets. There is some tendency to go after the easy targets as well - in a daily strip, that seems usual. Sometimes he hits it spot on - funny, critical, and not unkind.

Bayard is clearly sending up literary culture with this, but it is underplayed enough that you find yourself thinking "Wait, maybe he's serious about this after all." He is a professor of French Literature, and thus is breezily at home talking about "texts," and "words failing to communicate meaning and all that." However, he seems to have had about enough of it when taken to extremes, and it is his own field he is satirising.

Each chapter starts off reasonably, asking if we can count a book as "read" if we have forgotten it, or how much of a book we must read before commenting on it knowledgeably. There are ways of not reading a book, and they are not all the same.   He identifies prominent critics who clearly have not read the works they are commenting on, with no apparent damage to their wisdom or reputation. If a book is terrible, must we read it all to know this? Is it not enough to know its place in the network of writing and ideas? As all texts are experienced differently by the reader, is it perhaps enough to have merely heard of a book?  Might reading actually bog one down in unnecessary details?

I loved it. It actually is thought-provoking on how far we might let out the kite strings of modern criticism and still know there is a kite at the other end.  But it tackles the serious questions only to leap past to the more important task of reducing them to comic absurdity.

1 comment:

Texan99 said...

OK, cut it out. I've just ordered three books.