Sunday, November 19, 2006

dead poets' society

"Both Mandelstam and Akhmatova had the astonishing ability of somehow bridging time and space when they read the work of dead poets. By its very nature, such reading is usually anachronistic, but with them it meant entering into personal relations with the poet in question; it was a kind of conversation with someone long since departed." Nadezhda Mandelstam, Hope Against Hope.
I'm not buying the "usually anachronistic" part -- curious what others -- you there -- not you, Macaca, but you in the white t-shirt and burkha, think. Seems to me the point of reading things that are worth reading as in, you're gone, lost, out of mind and body for as long as you are immersed, which can include times when the book is just sitting there and you are rollerblading, sandblasting, or whatever it is you do when not reading.
le uscìo di bocca e con sì dolci note,
che fece me a me uscir di mente;
That is to say, the experience of "a good book" can rival or exceed the intimacy you think you have with your dear ones. Which latter relations could indeed offer some interesting resemblances to certain of the books you've read.

No, anachronistic would not be the word I'd use, unless to describe what the quotiddly self can seem to one who happens to be reading something pretty good. Some books remain distant cousins on first, second, nth readings, but then somehow, with the "conversation" underway, you're now putting your thoughts where and surely how the text puts its thoughts, less of a conversation than a putting on of the idea and of its fashion, taking in and being taken, discovering the wonderings it has are those you seemed to have but didn't know how to ask, back when your mind worked at all, that then of your mind voiced now and then in the now of the book that then can be an anachrony, a summoning of your dispersed wits to play with a fuller deck, filling and fitting out this ghost you cap-a-pe in volumes of attitude, graces of diction, cadences of logic, where you "live" when not engaged in podcasting, sandblasting, or piano tuning, though some of the best conversations with and about dead poets can be had during these activities of the allegedly living citizen-at-large.
"This would probably have been understood by Keats, who wanted to meet all his friends, living and dead, in a tavern," says Nadezhda Mandelstam.
чуть-чуть, Za Vas!


Anonymous Tutor said...

A lot have been written about interpretation of a book by a self or a community of selves, but how the book creates a self and a community of the book is for me a more compelling questions. "Communities of interpretation" grow up around great works like shrubs around trees, or gleaner fish around whales. The sing song voice in my head interpretting a Text is another inferior, vastly inferior text, which is only a fainter version of the Texts I have made my own and by whom I have been formed. Advertisers and propagandists understand this very well. But literature unlike propaganda leaves us better, rather than worse, able to think new thoughts of our own and "carry on" in ways richer and more unpredictable than before. We fall in love with cherished others, and are never the same again.

11/21/2006 9:15 PM  
Anonymous tom said...

Thanks. I know the feeling of the interpretive community as echoic gaggle. Somewhere in "Faithful Interpretation" AKMA offers the opinion that most hermeneutic "schools" are basically fashion objects, fads. One might ask, though, if that which constitutes such communities is so weak, then what happens to the force of an argument that puts the priority upon the community rather than the text.

As you say, different texts call forth different styles of communities, qualities of discourse, complexities of readings. This would appear to say something about a good book, perhaps about its modes of signifying, in contrast to a formulation that prioritizes the group of shrubs growing up around it.

It's a fairly good bet that, regardless of critical whim, Homer will be getting interesting readings in the next millennium, if there is one; it's less certain that the same will be true of Bill O'Reilly.

11/22/2006 2:11 PM  

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