Tuesday, April 22, 2008

I am not Joaquin, cont.

Laura, over at Teach Me Tonight, just posted this in a comment:
When readers reject a book as "poorly written," they often mean that the book was successfully written to achieve an effect that they personally dislike - too sexually arousing, too scary, too sentimental, too full of verbal effects, too descriptive, or too literary for them. A fan of the stripped-down Hemingway style might dislike the sensuous language of romance and declare that all romances are "poorly written." (53)
The source is Sheldrick Ross, Catherine and Mary K. Chelton. "Reader’s Advisory: Matching Mood and Material." Library Journal (February 1, 2001): 52-55.

I'm struck by how illuminating this simple idea proves when I think about my experience reading (and writing about) the Gonzales poem. Rather than calling it poorly written, I'd have been better served thinking about how it succeeded in doing something that unsettled me.

As the song says, I should have known better!

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