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    GREGORY WOLFE in Christianity Today, March 2008

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  • The Master's Artist is a group blog for writers united by the blood of Christ and a love for language. We come from different backgrounds, have different theological outlooks, and are interested in a wide variety of genres and artforms. The opinions expressed belong to their authors alone -- and you're welcome to share yours.

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November 12, 2008

Comments

Heather Goodman

"90% of my comments will deal with something in the work that I either want to emulate or want to avoid." In case you can't see, I'm nodding in agreement. Same with movies, music, etc. If it's not something I want to learn for my art, it's something I want to learn for my life.

Heather Goodman

I wanted to note that when I say learn for my life, I don't mean that in a pragmatic sense always, but taking glimpses of God's beauty and his created beauty into my life.

Christopher Fisher

Heather,

It's funny, but I can't remember the last time I read a book purely for entertainment. I've tried several times, but I'm not ten pages in before I'm reaching for a pen to mark an especially bad or beautiful line for future reference.

michael snyder

Chris, the library called and said, "Cut it out!"

Christopher Fisher

Hmmm, Mike. Cut out the portions I want to remember instead of just underlining them? That's a great idea! Tell the library I said thanks!

michael snyder

The library said...and I quote:

"Teleseminar cheese, aggregate possibilities best bent toadstool. Accept tuna at BR-549 ostentations. Deluxe jiggle forbidden."

So, you know...

michael snyder

On another note, have you seen/read How Fiction Works by James Woods? Recommended? Or no?

Nicole

"So a big part, if not the part, of what we are really analyzing when we criticize literature is actually our own positive, negative, or indifferent response to the work." So true.

I don't read reviews until after I've read the book. I don't write a "review" (and I use the term loosely for myself) based on anyone's opinion but my own. It is my impression, favorable or not, which I'm required to report if I'm undertaking the process of expressing thoughts/opinions on the book. In other words, I really only have to answer to myself. I read the book. I spoke my mind on it--either bluntly, gently, or however it affected me as a reader and a writer. One thing's for sure: writers are the harshest critics.

Christopher Fisher

Mike,

Teleseminar cheese?! Teleseminar CHEESE?!!! You tell those rat clapboard clusters that if they think ration rate posts are talcum sodium toast, they've got a blubber think thumbing!

Oh, and no I haven't read How Fiction Works yet, but I see my local library has a copy--bunch of chicklet met univariates!

Christopher Fisher

Nicole,

You said: "I don't read reviews until after I've read the book. I don't write a "review" (and I use the term loosely for myself) based on anyone's opinion but my own."

I agree it seems backward to read the critics before the actual work. Interestingly enough, I learned in researching this topic that the British tradition of literary criticism is to do just that. Students are taught to read the critics first, then go to the primary source with a basic knowledge of what to look for. I studied under one professor who used this method, and though I did learn from the experience, it just never felt comfortable.

In the United States, criticism is usually handled from the "primary source first" approach. I suppose it's part of the American psyche to think this way toward virtually everything--form your own opinion; think for yourself; insert rugged individualism here.

But I wonder how much of this is not just cultural programming, but also our religious upbringing. Especially those with a Protestant/Evangelical background who were encouraged from a young age to read scripture carefully, interpret it for themselves, and then to be ready to call into question and verify the claims of any secondary sources (preachers, evangelists, religious authors, etc.).

There are actually some striking ties between the evolution of literary criticism and our own tradition of textual criticism/interpretation of the Bible. Especially in the area of "close reading." Wikipedia even makes this claim under its entry on "close reading":

"But the closest religious analogy to contemporary literary close reading, and the principal historical connection with its birth, is the rise of the higher criticism, and the evolution of textual criticism of the Bible in Germany in the late eighteenth century."

Interesting...

Nicole

That might apply to some or even most of you, but I lived fully in the world for the first 30 years of my life with no Biblical understanding or examination.

Isn't it about individualism after all--when you read a book--specifically a novel? If you want, you can pretend to enjoy it because it's scholarly hip to do so, but in the end you haven't gained anything from the experience. If you "review" it from your perspective, someone out there is going to agree with you and perhaps even more of them are going to disagree with you.

Recently, I wrote two "bad" reviews for Christian novels I read for the CFBA blog tours. I hated doing it, but there was no other way than to be honest about the stories/writing. So I checked out some others' opinions of the books: they loved them. There are audiences for virtually all kinds of books. All we end up with is our opinion of them.

Christopher Fisher

"Isn't it about individualism after all--when you read a book--specifically a novel?"

To me it is. I am fiercely individualistic. Cut and split my own firewood. Grow my own vegetables. Heck, I'd operate on my own neck if I didn't know I'd only make things worse.

I do recognize, however, that some, maybe many people would disagree, instead veiwing the work as part of a larger tradition, or in the context of the author's biography. To me those things are important and can shed a lot of light on the actual work, but they are secondary. I am first and foremost interested in the relationship between this reader (myself) and the work itself.

admin

Mike, to answer your question from a few comments ago, Wood's book is definitely worthwhile. It was panned by some critics (scores to settle, perhaps) but I found it interesting.

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