- 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.)
- Follow the text, ignore the critic. (Even when the critic's monogram is DHL.)
- Trust yourself. (If you think that the critical consensus on a work is dead wrong, you may be right.)
- Always remember that every statement written about a major work of art should end with an implied "...or maybe not."
- 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.)
- Don't read more than 50 pages of a book you don't like. It probably won't get better.
- If a book blows you away, don't be shy. Tell everyone.
- Turn off the damn TV--or as I like to call it, the interpellation machine.
- Turn off your cellphone, blackberry, Iphone and all other electronic umbilicals.
- 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.
- Doubt everything.
- Apply rule 11 to your life.
Monday, April 13, 2009
A FEW RULES FOR READING
Here are a few ironclad rules for reading: