Let’s see. Blogger’s being a bitch (and was so yesterday, so I just gave up on the idea that I might actual respond in the comments before I went to work), so I’m going to respond in a post. If you are not interested in said response—perhaps even find them tedious and dull—please scroll down to past Robin’s name:
For all who asked, the book I was reading was The Queen Geek Social Club by Laura Preble (another in my YA reads), which has a very, very engaging narrator (hence all my questions about narrators and plot forgiveness this week). As it stands now, I felt that the ending was a bit rushed and I’m not sure I followed all of Shelby’s highs and lows, but overall the first person narration kicked ass and took names. I very much enjoyed it.
I’m now reading Francine Prose’s Reading Like a Writer, which is also incredibly fascinating and has me considering the evolution of my own close reading techniques (especially because I was so busy taking biology classes in college that I didn’t take a single Lit course). I’m now thinking of applying Prose’s close reading to Preble’s book and seeing what result I get.
As for the rest of you who commented:
Kendell, I looked up The Last Mortal Man and it looks really cool. I don’t tend to read a lot of SciFi, but I just might pick this one up. Please let me know if I should recommend it to customers.
Jackie, feel free to quote any and all odes to coffee from this blog. I probably won’t even remember it was mine.
Jules, I can always use more friends. Especially those who have blogs like yours, which reminds me, can I nominate books for the Cybils?
Trish, welcome to how my mind works. At one time, it was books before coffee. But then again, at one time I was a morning person. I wish I knew what happened.
Robin, I’m so glad that I ruined blue tooth technology for you as well. Think of it as an excuse to walk around with a big ol’ smile on your face.
For the rest of you:
Are you close readers? Do you need the tags telling us that someone is shouting, etc, or do you thrive on the showing (to the point that you worship at the alter of Raymond Carver)?
And, if you feel like digging a little deeper, what made you the reader you are?
I never took an English Lit class when I was in college. Later, when I was just taking classes to keep my brain occupied, I took a couple from the local university, something that could finally explain post-modernism and the different schools of theory. Before then, my only Lit classes were in Spanish, a painstaking process for me wherein I translated word for word trying to discover the true meaning of Lorca and others because I’ve never quite gotten my brain to kick over and just think in another language.
Well, that’s not true. I have, but it is usually when I’m drunk, just about to fall asleep or dreaming (I’ve had whole dreams in Spanish), that my brain relaxes enough that I don’t have to translate everything in my mind. My fault, I’m sure, for never going abroad for very long and forcing my brain into doing my bidding.
But even though I’d never taking the Lit classes that my friends—the English majors—did, I think I had a pretty good handle on the basic concept of New Criticism (the study of the words value by its placement on the page alone without weighing it with the aspects of the author’s life and back ground) due to all the plays I read during Theatre and one Spanish translation class I took.
In plays, you’re given the basic setting and the dialogue. The setting is open to interpretation (Shakespeare can be moved through time and space, each casting a new meaning to the words being spoken), so you only have the words to go on. What do the characters say about themselves in the dialogue? What do they say about others? What hints do they give you about their pasts that the writer does not specifically say?
Open to interpretation? Sure, but so’s anything you do or say since you have the weight of all your knowledge and background making itself known. It’s the reason we’ll all read a book differently.
The Spanish translation class made it clear that it is damn hard to translate humor and irony (so if you know anyone who can do it, go buy them a huge dinner). We would labor over the meaning of each word—to directly translate, or just translate the expression—fighting to capture the meaning without losing the author’s rhythm, meaning, and humor. After hours with our dictionaries, we’d come together and compare before the start of class. That’s a phrase meaning what? I didn’t know. Oh, you rearranged the words like that? That flows so much better.
Each word placement in each sentence was treated with the utmost importance.
And in the end we still didn’t get the irony, reading so closely that we missed the meaning of the piece.
So how about you? Do you read closely, or not at all? And if you do, what do you say to the naysayers that claim that anything non-literary would fall apart under close examination?
How much do you need to be told?