[ilds] words written and read and shared

James Gifford odos.fanourios at gmail.com
Sun May 4 10:16:03 PDT 2008


> It amazes me that some literary critics no
> longer credit authors with their own words, 
> which is what I see you, Bill, doing.  On 
> the other hand, I guess (again) that you're 
> amazed that I have the hubris to assume I 
> can possibly know what Lawrence Durrell was 
> up to.  My response to that -- careful i
> inferences can be made and intentions 
> recovered, within reasonable expectations.  
> Understanding one another in everyday 
> circumstances is usually about making 
> inferences based on a host of factors, 
> linguistic and extralinguistic, and no one 
> seems bothered by that.  We as speaking 
> beings stumble along from day to day, 
> communication and understanding often occur, 
> and it seems to me criticism should strive 
> to do the same.

Nice put, Bruce.  While I regularly rely on inferences within reasonable 
expectations (as you put it), I'm certain not convinced that I should 
label those inferences anything other than my own 'reading.'  I suppose 
what I mean is, insofar as the author is privileged with copyright, 
alphabetization in the library, and a shocking array of cover photos, I 
see a need for a balance: the reader.  We are creatures that play a 
marvellous language game, and while I wouldn't call it hubris to guess 
at what Lawrence Durrell was up to as an author, I'd likely go weak in 
my knees if I called that guess something other than a reading -- after 
all, who is doing the guessing, reasonable or otherwise?

After all, when I go to a concert, as I hope to do this evening, I don't 
actually "hear Chopin" even though I might say that -- I hear a 
performance by an interpreter of something Chopin wrote.  Chopin gets 
intellectual rights, alphabetization, and expired copyright, but I'm 
still listening to Rafal Blechacz, much like when I pick up a book 
(among many) with Durrell's name on the spine, *I'm* reading.  And, as a 
writer, how many people would know that I'd originally written 
"Beethoven" rather than "Chopin," and who would reasonably guess why I'd 
changed it (much like the shifts from "Keats" to "Blake" in 
/Balthazar/'s corrected proofs).

But I suggest that Bill really means (intends...) for his expired author 
to be much like Barthes': polemical.  Barthes' still wanted copyright 
and tenure based on his books -- he just wanted us to attend to readers 
as well.  There are risks in mind-reading dead people, and a séance 
might be as close as many readers' interpretations, so despite 
reasonable inferences, why not add readers to the pot as well.  Without 
the reader, reading becomes passive voice, and we all know what Orwell 
thought of that!

At least, I must admit I want both, though Bill may think I've made an 
unreasonable inference...  Will he correct me, or does this author 
prefer to leave his text out there in the world, to make its way on its own?

Best,
James

ps: Bruce, is the "bre(a)dwine" in your email address an intentional 
sacrament, or is that just my reading?  I'll continue to choose to read 
your postings as body & blood offered up to us...  Still, reasonable 
inferences with regard to some authors come with material risks, so if 
we want to get into hermeneutics of /that/ book, I'd really prefer the 
author remain dead, in Nietzsche's sense, and we focus on the readers.


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