Risky Regencies

Books are about life…

…and they’re written for a reader.

That’s the philosophy of Edward Mendelson, who teaches at Columbia University and has just published a book called The Things That Matter. In it he explores what the following novels tell us about the stages of life–Frankenstein, Middlemarch, Jane Eyre, and Wuthering Heights; and three by Virginia Woolf, Mrs. Dalloway, To The Lighthouse, and Between The Acts. He gave a fascinating interview on Weekend Edition on NPR last Saturday.

He’s got some amazing things to say, for instance, about Wuthering Heights as a depiction of childhood. But what really impressed me most in this interview–other than his refreshing attitude of not looking for a message, but taking a book for what it is, a statement of the human condition–was this perceptive comment on what happens when a writer sits down to write, and he/she is…

…cooperating with hundreds, thousands of other writers; to have the support of the shape of a novel, to have the help of the English language…with its rhymes and puns and its echoes and allusions. When you sit down to write this book you’re not alone. You have all of your reading, all of the language, all of the things that you’ve forgotten that got into your head working with you, helping to shape that world…

A wonderful thought. We are not alone!

And have you checked out the current Riskies contest? See Sunday’s interview with Pam Rosenthal.

0 0 votes
Article Rating
Notify of

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Diane Perkins
16 years ago

I’ve always hated to analyze what I read for its “meaning.” I just like to read for the story….fits in with what he says!

Pam Rosenthal
16 years ago

I love the comment you quoted, Janet. But even when you read for the story, I think the meaning comes along for free, without analysis, in the echoes and undertones, the shape and speed of the telling, the things you pondered afterwards and the one line you might remember five years from now.

Definitely gonna check out the interview. Thanks.

16 years ago

I really like that quote. That when you sit down to write, you take all that you have read with you and those authors as well.

I’m new to posting here, so hello!

16 years ago

I read a review of that book I think, Janet–or maybe I heard the NPR interview. It sounded very good–I’ll have to add it to my semi-infinite queue.

But while books are about life–good books, anyway–I often read them to escape from my life for a bit. Surfing the blog works for that, too. 🙂


Get every new post delivered to your inbox
Join millions of other followers
Powered By WPFruits.com
Would love your thoughts, please comment.x