6.04.2004

Others on Reviewing & on Ambiguity

Daniel Green points out and makes his own intriguing points on reviewing:

"the virtues of first-rate criticism: clear argument, shrewd use of evidence, consistency in criteria, inventive language, and a coherent critical philosophy"

and, on discussing the dastardly sin of codifying what makes pleasurable reading:

"Nonsense. Double nonsense! The appropriate response to literature is not first of all 'intellectual,' so an 'enthusiasm' for poetry and fiction is insufficient only if it also overlooks what is primary in our reponse to such works, which is an awareness of the aesthetic qualities that lead us to be enthusiastic about them. I would agree that a mere undiscriminating enthusiasm doesn't do justice to the reading experience in all of its more particular possibilities. But I don't think this is all that Franklin means to suggest. She takes reading as inferior to criticism, literature as valuable only if it conveys 'intellectual' content or if it can be submitted to intellectual analysis."

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After this post, I'll be interested in hearing what he has to say on my thoughts on "ambiguity."

Here he writes: "I taught 'A Good Man is Hard to Find' umpteen times, and never could see how the religious allegory supposedly at the heart of the story made any sense--or more precisely, made the story more meaningful because less ambigious. In this case the loss of ambiguity literally makes the story less meaning-ful."

Matthew Cheney's thoughts on ambiguity in Big Fish: "What Burton has done is destroy all ambiguity in his story and remove the audience's participation in the construction of the imagined reality -- and it is exactly that participation which differentiates art that respects its audience from art that condescends to it. It's a totalitarian aesthetic at heart, an aesthetic which seeks one response from an audience, producing work which says, 'Feel this!' at predicted moments rather than opening opportunities for individual response."

On Lucius Shepard's "Only Partly Here," he writes, "Actually, I like the less literal, more ambiguous reading better, one which leaves open the possibility of the supernatural, but also suggests Bobby may be jumping to conclusions."

More bluntly put in "Against Functional Prose": "'[beginning with a quote from Wallace Gray] one can... attempt to hold two contradictory interpretations in the mind at the same time without trying to resolve them.'

"'Revel in the ambiguity [emphasis his]' -- yes, indeed, a perfect phrase for what great prose can offer us: an opportunity to revel, and in revelling a revelation of life and literature's possibilities."

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My thoughts on ambiguity are either ambiguous or unambiguous, depending.

Marshall your own thoughts. Let me know of any links to commentaries on ambiguity that gets your ire or lights your fire.

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