Friday, July 15, 2005

Inspiring criticism

That heading can be read two ways, but I want to talk about the kind of literary criticism (or lit. crit. as it's often called) that inspires one to read the books about which the critic is talking. I've just finished reading Terry Pratchett: Guilty of Literature (1), which I mentioned here a few days ago, and it's the kind of lit. crit. I really appreciate - and that I try to write myself. The kind that inspires one to go and read (or re-read) the books under discussion, and the kind of lit. crit. that is written by people who really know the book(s) about which they're writing. When I was researching my first Harry Potter paper, it really, really annoyed me whenever I read an article by a critic who got very basic facts about the stories wrong (I'm not going to name and shame anyone, so don't ask for details !) That kind of thing doesn't inspire any trust in the critic on my part, and I tend to feel that if someone can't get even the basic facts right, then I cannot value their opinions. On the other hand, Andrew M Butler's piece 'Theories of Humour', inspired me to re-read Mort again for the first time in several years, and I paid it far greater attention this time, because I had Andrew's thoughts in my head as I read. That is good criticism and that is why I make it a rule to only write about books that I know well and that I enjoy reading, otherwise I will not do justice to the books, or their authors. I'm not interested in writing just for the sake of writing, I'm interested in writing to inspire my readers to go out and read the books I've discussed.

(1) You'll have to scroll down the page for the book's details. If you can, please do buy a copy of this book as profits go to the Science Fiction Foundation and to Terry's favourite charity, the Orangutan Foundation. Thank you.

PS. No Blog tomorrow, unless I finish HP6 earlier than I am anticipating (and, no, I'm not buying mine at midnight tonight !)

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