Wednesday, March 10, 2010
my spirit takes me through this avenue
Having to do that is daunting enough without blast shadow memories of Survey of Romantic Literature and being told that those guys were GREAT and CLASSIC and GENIUS and their work explored the fullness of the human condition and nothing has or will ever come close. This could also take place in a Victorian Lit. class, or maybe something on the Lost Generation, or the Beats, or Shakespeare (which is absurd, considering how corny and overwritten most of his comedies are). The professor's enthusiasm can, if left unchecked, go beyond encouraging students to invest in the work and back their responses with legit critical analysis, and end up telling them that "it's [author], it's great, you're not," and that anything you have to contribute to the discussion is moot unless you can trace it back to a zillion other people. It's no wonder academics are such egomanical backstabbers, if they're trying to make a name for themselves amid a sea of out-of-hand dismissal.
Anyway, I keep returning to that thought as my work develops: if my own observations about what I've read don't really matter, does anything I write really matter? Obviously those observations are going to bleed into my work, but if Dostoyevsky and Joyce and Poe and Pynchon and Eliot already scaled that mountain well before I was born, what am I doing but scraping mud off the base? This is especially troubling because, even though I write in "genre" a lot, my ambitions are higher than YA vampire/zombie fiction, which is where that all seems to be going. It's a lot to think about, and it's completely stonewalled my creative urges on more than one occasion. Saying "fuck 'em" and soldiering on is harder than it seems, even for someone like me who is used to saying and doing those exact things.
Maybe tonight's faculty reading will help put things in better perspective.