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Let's Talk About Literature

The WSJ *coff* weighs in on the Golden Compass controversy:

So is the ferment about "His Dark Materials" just Harry Potter vs. Fundamentalists redux, a clash that generates heat but no light? Probably not.

First of all, "His Dark Materials," unlike the Harry Potter series, is real literature and, as such, deserves serious attention. Mr. Pullman, a graduate of Oxford University with a degree in English, knows his stuff. The books are loaded with allusions to Greek mythology and philosophy, Milton, Blake and the Bible, with images ranging from the obvious (the Garden of Eden) to the obscure (the bene elim, or angelic Watchers mentioned in Genesis 6:1-4). These allusions, unlike the throwaway Latinisms of Hogwarts' spells, drive the plot, characters and themes of Mr. Pullman's series. Indeed, a child who investigates them would begin to gain the rudiments of a classical education.

I think this is an interesting argument, if only for the dismissive snobbery inherent in the system: if it refers to other great works, clearly it is also a great work. But it ignores (pointedly, I should think), all the references of the HP series.

Because, seriously, if you didn't pick them up, particularly in Book 7, then you *really* don't have a case in talking about classical rudiments, I'm just sayin'.

But then:

Mr. Pullman insists, as Dan Brown did regarding his novel "The Da Vinci Code," that he is only telling a story. Yet surely he, like his character Lyra, knows that a story is one of the most important things there is. In a climactic scene in the third book, Lyra comes to grief when she spins a fantastic tale to a mythological creature called a harpy who is guarding the underworld. " 'Liar! Liar! Liar!' " it screams, "so that Lyra and liar were one and the same thing." When Lyra tells the harpy another story, a true one, it responds quite differently. Why? "Because it was true," says the harpy. "Because it was nourishing. Because it was feeding us."

Dan Brown? They brought in Dan frigging Brown?!

Pardon me while I have an aneurism.

Okay, back to the issue at hand. I know looking for logic and sense in the WSJ is begging for its own particular brand of madness, but I find the whole article to be deeply peculiar. To the point that I have sat here quite a while typing in circles and have just come to the conclusion that I give up.

So I ask you all: What constitutes literature in this day and age?


( 2 comments — Add your .02 )
(Deleted comment)
Dec. 17th, 2007 03:37 am (UTC)
The big questions generally are the ones most worth the asking.

Had a brief conversation with a fellow last week in the math dept. Guy didn't like graphic novels. I pointed out that Maus won the friggin' Pulitzer. He kinda blinked and said he could never quite understand how to read the pictures and the words together.

This fellow teaches for a living. The fuck?
( 2 comments — Add your .02 )

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