Monday, April 13, 2009


Here are a few ironclad rules for reading:
  1. Trust the tale, not the teller. (Closely paraphrased from D.H. Lawrence's Studies in Classic American Literature, a work that despite its flaws remains one of the most thought-provoking books in its field.)
  2. Follow the text, ignore the critic. (Even when the critic's monogram is DHL.)
  3. Trust yourself. (If you think that the critical consensus on a work is dead wrong, you may be right.)
  4. Always remember that every statement written about a major work of art should end with an implied "...or maybe not."
  5. Ignore blurbs. (Even blurbs from great writers tend to be exercises in backscratching, log-rolling and corporate boosterism--the three events in the literary triathlon.)
  6. Don't read more than 50 pages of a book you don't like. It probably won't get better.
  7. If a book blows you away, don't be shy. Tell everyone.
  8. Turn off the damn TV--or as I like to call it, the interpellation machine.
  9. Turn off your cellphone, blackberry, Iphone and all other electronic umbilicals.
  10. When reading Modernist (or so-called 'Postmodernist') works, realize that some passages will be incomprehensible on a first reading. Their significance will only become apparent upon re-reading, when your first reading of the book will constitute your foreknowledge of the text. In other words, don't expect to understand all of Ulysses or A la recherche du temps perdu or The Waste Land or Lolita or Gravity's Rainbow upon first reading them.
  11. Doubt everything.
  12. Apply rule 11 to your life.

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