Tuesday, May 03, 2005

The Scarlet Letter

From the diary: “April 18, 1982

“We’re reading The Scarlet Letter in American Lit. Hard stuff to get into. We have to do a lot of analyzing too. Apparently Hawthorne loved symbolism.”

I didn’t actually dislike The Scarlet Letter. I recall enjoying some of it. But there’s something about reading a book you know you’re going to be beaten about the head with that makes the reading rather heavy and unpleasant. Literature, it seems to me, ought not to be taught as a puzzle. Figure out the puzzle and you’ve got the book! Nonsense. It’s a story. Enjoy the story.

Speaking of puzzles, I’m continuing to work my way through Emily Dickinson’s complete poems. Seems to me that girl was a puzzle-maker. I find her uncommonly frustrating. Part of it, I think, is that I don’t get much pleasure out of her language or rhythms so find myself rereading to try to figure out what she means. This is a dangerous thing. If all you get out of a poem is what it means you’ll just be disappointed. Poems aren’t great guidebooks to living. It’s not like they’re banged together by championship livers.

4 comments:

David Lee said...

Funny, the first time I read that last sentence I read "championship livers" as in the-organ-that-filters-the-blood-and-gets-cooked-with-onions. On the double read I got what you actually meant. I'm still left with a picture of these reddish cartoon organs standing on boxes waiting to receive their awards.

Glenn Ingersoll said...

Mm. Poet sauteed with onions.

hbjock said...

Hmmm... The Scarlet Letter... Haven't had the joy of reading that book yet. But yeah some books are just way too difficult to get into. Then again, have you ever tried to read "Beloved"? I tried to read it and couldn't even really get through the first chapter! =)

Glenn Ingersoll said...

I have Hawthorne's House of Seven Gables on a shelf upstairs. I sorta intend to read it sometime. Of course the same could be said for some hundreds of pounds of books.

K read Beloved. He says he found it challenging but encourages me to read it. There have been a few books I've started more than once -- Wicked being one of them -- and some I've gotten back to only to find myself engrossed. The first two or three chapters were an obstacle to get past in order to find a good book. Then there's Walden which has a placemark about 2/3 through which hasn't moved in 6 years.