Tags: literary criticism

V for Vendetta


I really, really wish the cover of Alan Moore's Watchmen was not plastered all over with "Groundbreaking!", "The greatest piece of popular fiction ever produced!", "Peerless!", "A landmark!", "Staggeringly complex!" I really wish it wasn't.

Because I'm positive that if I'd come to it expecting nothing more than a graphic novel, with superheroes in capes and stuff, I'd have been very, very impressed. Overwhelmingly impressed, no doubt. But instead -- in spite of my best efforts to ignore the reviewers and banish all preconceptions -- I came to it expecting the greatest graphic novel ever written. And hell, maybe it is the greatest graphic novel ever written. But when something has been praised that highly, what you bring to it is mostly judgment, and unfortunately most of what I've ended up thinking about it is simply, "Well, it wasn't that amazing."

Which, like I said, is almost certainly purely a consequence of having been told -- by the blurbs on the book itself, by the reviewers on Amazon when I bought it, by the previews for the upcoming film -- that I would be, you know, completely blown away by its epicness. I really wish that I had somehow stumbled across it by accident, because then I could have actually been blown away. Why the devil are we so incapable of seeing past our own preconceptions, and appreciating something for what it is and what it was intended to be, rather than some shapeless anticipation of the impossible?

It seems to me that if people were able to judge things -- including each other -- for what they are and what they're intended to be, half the world's bloody problems would be solved right there. But hell, that's a whole other topic.

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Relatedly, and yet not: I've been rather depressed about how much publicity and hype The Dark Knight has gotten, and I guess now I realize why. Because it's like all the hype surrounding Watchmen, which made it so hard for me to appreciate it, so inclined to judge every little thing about it. I went to see The Dark Knight expecting your typical superhero flick (more respectable than, like, Spiderman or something, but still inevitably silly); I figured the best thing about it would be Bale in his batsuit looking pretty. I was blown away because I had no expectations. If I'd been looking for something revolutionary, profound, nuanced... hell, maybe I'd have been utterly disappointed. I don't even know. I hate that I keep hearing people saying they're not interested in seeing the Batman movie, and I can't tell them how good it is, becuase if I do, they're bound to be disappointed when/if they see it, because its greatness... is relative to what it's intended to be. Relative to its genre and what is demanded of that genre, and relative to the preconceptions you have about it before you walk into the theater. Or pick up the book. Or whatever.

I just wish we could see things as they're meant to be seen, and judge them as they're meant to be judged. But look, here I am quoting Pope again. "Whoever thinks a faultless piece to see, thinks what ne'er was, nor is, nor e'er shall be. In every work regard the writer's end, since none can compass more than they intend; and if the means be just, the conduct true, applause, in spite of trivial faults, is due."

Amen to that.

ETA: I'm pretty excited about the Watchmen film now, though. I was skeptical before, and I'm still a bit worried about how much they'll leave out, but it has the potential to be very neat. Hopefully they'll do like they did with V for Vendetta and make the chick not suck in the movie version...
Sandman - Season of Mists

A Little Learning is a Dangerous Thing [April Poetry Month, Day 5]

All right, so I failed to put up any poetry yesterday -- but I'll make up for it later, and in the meantime, here's that frightfully ambitious post I mentioned a couple of days ago. (I suppose it would be fair to say that his post sets up the context for all the rest of my Poetry Month posts, and, heck, probably for every other literature post I've ever made.)

Alexander Pope's Essay on Criticism is a very long poem, so I won't produce the text here in full; but have a link, and with it my most ardent encouragement to read it through. It's amazing how precisely Pope, three hundred years dead, can still find out all the flaws and stupidities of literature and literary criticism -- and how much aspiring writers (and critical readers) of the present day can still learn from him. His poem is a bit like The Elements of Style in verse, only broader, wittier, and more subjective. I've read it a number of times, always with the same amaze and delight, and basked in every damnably clever line of it. Really, I cannot possibly overstate how much I adore this poem. Yes, I know, it's an essay -- on criticism, of all prosaic things -- but nonetheless, I tell you, it is fucking beautiful.

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(...Whew. Can you believe this is the sort of thing I look forward to doing with my spare time? o_O)