"What is this babbler trying to say?" Acts 17:18

Monday, July 28, 2008

An Experiment in Blogging

Reading Lewis’s Experiment in Criticism has made me realize that I have not, hitherto, given much thought to the purpose of this blog. It is, quite simply, for fun. That is, I like reading and occasionally writing about authors that have been largely forgotten by a television entertained culture. I can only pretend to be an authority, however, and cannot even deceive myself when it comes to evaluating anything critically. To plagiarize the words of C.S.Lewis (from one of his theological books and not, of course, referring to literature): “I write for the unlearned about things in which I am unlearned myself.”

My aim has never been to exhaustively analyze a book but only to discriminatingly comment on whatever I particularly like or (more seldom) dislike, or for that matter, anything that remotely interests me. In An Experiment in Criticism Lewis perceptively remarks that an obligation to review a book may hinder the reviewer’s ability to soak it in and enjoy it for its own sake. I don’t want this to happen to me. Since I started this blog there have already been books I have had nothing worth saying about even after racking my mind. Rather than stress over something to say I see now it would be better to forget writing about, and simply enjoy reading that book. Granted, this determination could translate into fewer posts in the future but hopefully of a better quality. (The current dearth of posts is due to the somewhat extraordinary occurrence of a weekend camp out, a six-day backpack trip, and another weekend out of town).

I am not recommending a book just because I post about it. Some of the books I have written about have very little in their favor and numerous flaws both artistically and morally. I am “concerned far more with describing books than with judging them” (Experiment 122). Chretien De Troyes, whom I reviewed a few months ago, is a case in point. Maybe the original French verse is better but my prose translation is awful: Repetitious, descriptive to the point of boredom, totally unlifelike, and no reason or motive for many of the actions taken. Morally it was just as bad, as anyone acquainted with the adulterous tale of Lancelot knows. Yet it was interesting in its odd little way and I enjoyed parts of it. Would I recommend it? No way. (And besides, who in their right mind would take such a recommendation!)

One reason I write is because I have not yet found another blog entirely devoted to mining for the same literary and philosophical ore that I am in search of. There are scholarly blogs and “summer reading” reviews and religious blogs and history blogs but non which occasionally touch on the deeper issues raised by famous literature without sounding like they are written by a Ph.D. (i.e.: boring and incomprehensible). I would much rather hear someone else’s thoughts on the kinds of books I like but as C.S.Lewis is reputed to have said to Tolkien: “Tollers, there is too little of what we really like in stories [or blogs]. I am afraid we shall have to write some ourselves” (On Stories xvii).

And hearing other thoughts raises another point: feel free to comment. There is nothing like dialogue to stimulate thinking. Agree, disagree, tell me what you think about a book, ask a question, or whatever. Just try to keep it on topic and keep it decent.

Lewis, C.S. An Experiment in Criticism. Cambridge U.K. Cambridge University Press, eleventh Canto edition. 2006
Lewis, C.S. On Stories and Other Essays on Literature. Harcourt, inc. 1982

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