[ilds] Sterile and Pretentious Posts

Alejandro Adams hungerist at hotmail.com
Wed Apr 25 17:07:00 PDT 2007

I couldn't help noticing the colorful phrase "sterile and pretentious 
posts."  I haven't seen any posts fitting that description, but as a 
short-on-scholarship Reader's Reader (intuitive and uninformed), I 
understand the spirit of the accusation.

The most intense aspects of any experience in the arts ipso facto defy 
discussability.  Somewhere Sontag talks about the notion of "talking about" 
art, how this notion has developed, how it is applied, and how arbitrary and 
counterproductive it is as a method of metabolizing experience (bad 

Any literary discussion has an indirect relationship to the book in 
question.  When we talk about reading, we talk about an experience which has 
expired, since it is physically--rather, mentally--impossible to read a 
sentence for the first time and simultaneously discuss it with someone else 
who is reading it for the first time.  Discussion is necessarily 
revisitation--nostalgia, a subtext of loss.  Discussion is itself "sterile" 
in contrast to the dynamic experience of reading.  Are we to favor a 
firebrand contentiousness which obliquely mirrors our volatile inner state 
as we read the AQ (or any piece of exciting literature) for the first time? 
That sensation is, to my mind, profoundly anti-social.

My own feeling is that What Can Be Discussed about any work of art resides 
on a plane that is ungratifyingly low on the scale of experience--just as a 
discussion of a basketball game will inevitably fall short of the experience 
of watching the basketball game.  One can go only so far in verbally 
rendering athleticism and bouncing balls--and if one were to accept the 
challenge of going as far as possible in discussing the game, could (or 
should) the discussion achieve a level of intensity which matches that of 
watching the original event?

It may be the case that the hardest-reading, most intuitive and brilliant 
reader of Durrell would avoid this sort of list altogether, just as Elton 
Trueblood suggested, after the Second World War, that "true Christians" were 
avoiding church--i.e., avoiding the institutionalization of a faith too 
vital to be caged.  This list is equivalent to an institutionalization of 
our collective faith in Durrell, and I gladly accept the "high church" 
trappings.  Our only other choice is to go solo, all locusts and wild honey 
and camel hair.  Sounds lonely.

Alejandro Adams

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