A piece I wrote on Goethe’s Faust was published in Empty Mirror. Here’s a link; hope the humans of the internet enjoy.
One of my earliest remaining memories is reading a robins egg blue hardcover copy of Winnie-the-Pooh in a crib. In retrospect the previous sentence makes me sound like a prodigy reader, which certainly was not the case. I may be better than average, but there were no literary escapades during diapers. I slept in a crib until the end of 1st grade, due to the close-quartered living situation. I must’ve been between 5 and 7; there’s also a faint light of my mother getting ready for work next to the chair that always held all the clothes that couldn’t be bothered to be put away.
Third grade my parents encouraged Jules Verne. With sixth and seventh grade came Gulliver’s Travels and Animal Farm.
I hate to say in retrospect again almost as much as this upcoming retrospection and its consequences.
A great deal of classics were read, and for that thanks go to my parents. But because of any and all issues with them that I had at the time, I would read terrible books, gaudy tales of twenty-somethings being nannys and angsty young adult novels, because I knew it would frustrate them. I would roll my eyes at their suggestions and then go on to reread the most useless texts. And now I think back and all I see is wasted time. Not necessarily wasted, because who is to say what I would have grasped and retained at the time, but I’d wager to say that something would’ve been different.
And then there’s this, ‘wasted time’. I shudder to think at all the time I waste thinking about previous ‘wasted time’. I wonder how I’ll think of such waste in the years to come.
Last night my father and I watched Mulholland Drive together. Afterwards, standing at opposing ends of the kitchen, we fell into a conversation regarding the extent of interpretation one can carry out in regards to the film; and later in the conversation, in regards to paintings and literature.
I’m not the biggest cheerleader for David Lynch’s films, but I certainly don’t disparage them. He introduced notions into films that will leave him remembered as much as Fellini in the film world. But that doesn’t mean I’ll pop in a David Lynch film on my day off and enjoy myself. It’s like noticing an aesthetically pleasing woman on the subway; I won’t deny that she is beautiful, but I don’t want to take her home and show her my books. That being said, I admire his work, but the slightly formulaic (a particular formula he devised, of course) nature of his films tires me during the act of watching.
He suggested that the first part of the movie was the ‘dream sequence’, while the second was the ‘reality’, to which I responded that the same can be said of the reverse, and if anything it seemed as though the movie attempted to expand on a non-linear notion. Breaking the audience away from the need of a one-way arrow narration and diegesis. I wasn’t trying to imply that this was necessarily the intention of the movie, but this was the sense I got from it.
After each comment I made, his response would unfailingly be “I understand that and I agree with that, but…”, attempting to justify his linear understanding of the film despite my comment that perhaps Lynch is attempting to steer the audience away from the need of linearity. It was just a very back and forth conversation, hinging on argument, just because of the haze of justification that seemed to permeate through the kitchen.
Then the conversation tumbled down a few stairs and landed upon the subject of participation in the act of watching a film versus that of reading a text. I offered the opinion that the act of reading a text requires more participation and activity than that of watching a film, at the very least due to the constructed nature of the film; it’s ready-made.
When I tried to put it simply as “the text doesn’t really exist without the reader”, he understood it as an elementary aphorism, akin to “if a tree falls in the forest and there’s no one there to hear it, does it make a sound?”
I just began reading a text that outlines reader-response criticism, and the last line of the first paragraph of the introduction went like so; “Its [a poems] ‘effects,’ psychological and otherwise, are essential to any accurate description of its meaning, since that meaning has no effective existence outside of its realization in the mind of the reader.”
Now, the essentiality of the effect is a strange thing to consider, because how would one measure the effect of a text on a reader? Do different readings imply paradoxical meanings, or a methodological text?
It does stand, in my opinion, that a text beckons the participation of a reader. A participation that involves a great deal more ‘giving-up’, so to speak, than one is often accustomed in current times. A book fools you because while you may hold the entire thing in your hands, turning it round and round, flipping through the pages, feeling the veil of raised text on paper, despite any immediacy the book may present for itself, there’s an unspoken amount of time that must be devoted to this book for one to truly ‘have it’.
 Reader Response Criticism; From Formalism to Post-Structuralism, edited by Jane P. Tompkins
A: Stand up!
B—chin up, prick ears towards the break in silence.
to stand: to have or maintain an upright position.
up: a direction, a coordinate, a position
unbend legs and push against foundation.
In another room, C sets up a chain of 63 dominos in one straight line. D notices this and gently taps one on the end.