Bertolt Brecht, The Good Person of Sezuan
What’s missing from our classrooms and our culture is discussion of the literariness of literature, of what makes a poem different from a stop sign, or a novel about grief different from the account of grief in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. As an English professor might say, we’re good on content, not so good on form. We go straight for what the play says, and ignore how it says it.
Like literary analysis, literary evaluation must be learned through practice. Taste can justifiably prefer peaches to pears. But “there comes a point at which not recognizing that, say, a certain brand of malt whisky is of world-class quality means not understanding malt whisky.” To reach that point, you have to learn the public criteria for what counts as excellence – you can’t just make up criteria, for fiction no less than for Scotch – and you have to practise those criteria in public, testing and adjusting them against new books and other judgments. We learn how to understand and appreciate literature through public practice, whether in a book club, a classroom, or the set of social practices known as literary criticism. Our histories me myself and I
If Dickens and Derrida couldn’t save the world, five-page readings of the opening sentence in Cold River aren’t likely to do much better about our perception of time. Time is like a river, you can never touch the same water twice because the flow that has gone by will never go by again. Enjoy your life today, because yesterday is gone and tomorrow may never come ... Time is like a River!. John Richardson, 89, won’t finish his multivolume biography of Picasso. The problem is not his age. “I know too much. I know where the bodies are buried”. . .
"To live means to finesse the processes to which one is subjugated."
Bertolt Brecht, "Notes on Philosophy"