I missed the Literary Blog Hop like an idiot last month, but I am making amends now. If you don't know what the Hop is, it's a blogging activity hosted by Ingrid and her army of smart reviewers at The Blue Bookcase. They are beautiful, fierce and smarter than you. They're awesome. If you're looking to participate to the hop, hop over here for the rules. This month's prompt is...
To what extent do you analyze literature? Are you more analytical in your reading if you know you're going to review the book? Is analysis useful in helping you understand and appreciate literature, or does it detract from your readerly experience?
If too many years of Academia brought me one thing, is to how to get over what I call "the good story syndrome". There's nothing I find less convincing than a reviewer that says: "I really enjoy the story, I related to the characters". While I'm not annoyed by it because I'm aware not everybody has the same relationship to literature that I have (and I tend to take everything WAY too seriously), I'm not going to pick up a book because somebody told me that.
I'm a firm believer that a story is never really just a story. It's a set of values, it's themes and problems that are dear to the author, who portrays them in a story. Those are the elements I'm looking for when I read. For example in FIGHT CLUB, alienation was a recurrent theme. The narrator feels clumsy and inadequate in front of the projection of his ideal self. He doesn't have an identity anymore. Beyond the story of anarchism and small time terrorism, I related to the alienated members of the fight club, who were brainwashed by mass media and were being awoken to something new by Tyler. To a certain extent, those elements are part of the story, but you have to break them down to understand how they reach out to you. Why you're touched by a certain story and not by another, if they're both good.
Some people refuse to go see beyond the story, because they're scared it will take away from the purity of the reading experience. I disagree. I acquired this really visceral relationship to reading by gaining understanding on how it affected me. That allowed me to know myself better and know what I like better too. That said, I'm not your language nut, who will start dislocating stories sentence by sentence to see who has the best handle on language and start loving sentences and paragraphs before I love a novel. There's a certain level I don't go to. I'm not going to stop the flow of reading to analyze anything. I do it in between two sittings.
I think everybody could benefit from a certain level of analysis and critical thinking on their reading, but I can understand why people don't do it. There's a part of alienation towards literary studies in that. It's perceived as a snobbish, high brow and useless discipline, which I think it fundamentally wrong. There is a purpose to literature other than to entertain. Stories have stories to tell. You just have to have your ears opened and be focused, you will hear them.