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.