So basically it's been another long day, but I guess my idea of "gettin' down on Friday" includes blogging. It will be a while before anyone reads this. Whatever. See maybe it’s a problem with the world today, people don’t get what I’m getting at. Or maybe I don’t get what I’m getting at. So in act two I’ll reestablish the main problems here and try to deal with them in a way that I think is effective.
On that note, let’s take a minute and learn some words; criticism versus critique. See the two are different although some people use them interchangeably, but not my main man Immanuel Kant. See Kant wrote some books, The Critique of Pure Reason was one, and he wasn’t making judgements about people reasoning; Kant was considering what reason is. Kant even wrote about aesthetics which is something I’m critiquing in the literature we’re encountering in AP College English. A critique is “a specific critical commentary or review” criticism is based on value judgements. So I am doing a bit of both because I find much in The God of Small Things ineffective, but that’s because I don’t see it fitting within the realm of effective literature I’m reviewing. And as with morality, aesthetics can be relative, that won’t change the fact that there are clear problems with what’s been laid down in some of these works we’ve gone through. Relativity also won’t change that we can get away with maverick uses of language without pretension or loss of meaning.
Additionally I think I’ve said that my real problem with Beloved was it’s superficiality. I was pontificating, now I’m reflecting, reasoning, reviewing, critiquing. I think it’s the case that Morrison knows what she’s doing when she writes; she may know to well was my point. Similarly, Roy is clearly not any of the authors I mentioned previously—authors I might add who each have their own distinctive style that seems to fit into time tested and respected literature—I don’t see her in that pantheon anytime soon based on this book (that is to say her only book). I don’t see her in that pantheon ever. Unless she pulls off some sort of miracle later (and I have my doubts) she’s just another lady with a book to her name. Screw the Booker Prize.
The critique I’m basing my obviously opinionated opinions off of is that there is a necessary commitment to tone and consistency that an author makes in a work that facilitates the ability of a reader to probe it. This is kind of a thesis, I argued it with the books last night. But I’m taking it as fact here; you’re in part deux now.
The God of Small Things does a lot of things wrong along the lines of consistency and efficacy of it’s language. It piles all the things it tries to do—point of view, changes in time, repetition of themes and phrases, repetition of events even, et cetera—higher to the extent that, if there is something to it all, it’s a needle in a haystack gasping for breath (a mixed metaphor Roy just might use). But some of the more damning aspects of the book are the things it’s done right (I’m on the look out for those too now). Here’s one I kind of like; “She put her rosary back into her blouse where she kept it with her melons” (Roy, 77). See that tells us about the character—her spirituality, her appearance maybe—and it does effectively reflect the point of view of someone brought up in the Syrian Christian system who is also young and snarky. Thumbs up to Roy on this passage. It’s more that she’s already messed up the consistency and structural nature of her story that makes this line a pain in the ass still. Here’s another one I like; “Being interrupted by Phil Donahue was of course entirely different from being interrupted by a subway rumble. It was a pleasure. An honor” (85). This line is reasonably true and shows some genuine perception on the part of the person who wrote it; a subway may have more than the coming and going of people and trains—it rumbles. Here Roy’s narration is good, almost poetic. Like Emily Dickinson or Cormack McCarthy, she’s picking up on something the lay person doesn’t realize immediately.
I think that Virginia Woolf probably picked up on things that lay people don’t realize. Perhaps especially that people didn’t realize at the time she was writing. Now I haven’t read Orlando: A Biography but I feel like I know what’s going on there; why it would be considered a powerful work. I suspect that the power of Orlando is similar to the movie (though I can’t really say for sure) and that power is in the fact that the story knows what it’s doing and sticks to it’s guns. Further, like I said about Beloved earlier, Orlando complicates itself with things like time and gender. But Orlando depends upon a serious and considered appraisal of what it takes aim at; perhaps (though not necessarily) the change and voracity of gender relations. This appraisal as opposed to a flippant look at the absurdities of such long life and unlikely change disguised with supposedly inventive writing which depends on third person narration. See deep down the play Orlando knows that it’s dealing with this tricky stuff, but it doesn’t deal with it because it repeatedly takes the audience out of that stuff.
A play can be weird. Anything can be weird, but maybe it shouldn’t be weird for weirdness’s sake. Which brings me back to my critique; the strength of a work can won or lost in it’s commitment to something concrete. If I want to relate a work to some, say perhaps, greater human truth, or critical assertion, that work had better have the ability to fit into a box like that. Okay some works defy classification. For some works, defiance is the point. But get with the program, there’s a way to articulate an idea effectively.
Here’s sort of a final going over, though that’s not to say that this is the last word I’ll have on the subject. Look at in-class discussion though, Beloved proved fruitful though not liked while The God of Small Things hasn’t really been fruitful at all. If there was something really to be said conclusively about The God of Small Things someone would have said it, so maybe it’s way down there still. Yet the construction of the language, the literature of the book suggests otherwise; the concreteness of the book (perhaps that singular meaning I once said criticism of art invites) is debilitated by the fickleness the likes of Roy brought to her book or the actors and playwright at the Court Theater brought to Orlando.
Again I’ve written for more than enough time tonight, but there may be more to say. Although I’ve articulated the problems in these works a hundred times it seems, it may be worthwhile to bang out some solutions. It’s not that there isn’t the capacity for passable work here, it’s just that these basics (what a critique of literary language would reveal) have not been covered.
That still may not be all.