Day 145-- on overanalyzing

When I want to write about a book or a movie or whatnot, I often spend a few days reading other reviews, poking my head into message boards, and so on. This is usually time well spent. I get to see other viewpoints, other angles, other worldviews at play. But it can often be frustrating work.

Recent example: I finished Cormac McCarthy's moving, haunting novel the Road today. I read good reviews galore and eventually settled onto the quote official endquote fansite created to foster scholarly (and otherwise) studies into the author's works. This is when I got frustrated.

The forums on the fansite were cluttered with interpretations of the Road. See, McCarthy has a reputation of filling his novels with allegory, symbolism and allusion; he also a notoriously closed-mouth man and doesn't talk much about themes or meanings or the like. I got a lot out of the Road--so much that I might not give it a good write-up until I let it soak in, which may take a week--but the people on the site just went apecrap with the analysis. They dissected every word, argued with each other on the forum, and as a whole came across like angry PhD holders trying to vent suppressed childhood anxieties. A few forum posts were nigh unreadable, cluttered with ten-cent words and literary allusions to other literary allusions to...etc.

Books--movies, music, art, theatre, whatever--can mean something. Of course it can. But sometimes I think we (in general) want a book or a television show or essay to mean more, to answer questions not even raised, to bolster itself with imaginary padding. The Road is a dense book, no doubt, hiding beneath sparse prose. But as it goes, sometimes a whale is just a whale.

posted, with grace and poise, by Jason @ 1/29/2007 12:45:00 AM,


At 7:46 AM, Blogger Qere Ketiv said...

"like angry PhD holders trying to vent suppressed childhood anxieties"

For brevity's sake, this sentence can also be abbreviated "like PhD holders".

"sometimes a whale is just a whale"

A subtle reference to the cultural interplay between Melville, your last post, and eclectic singer/songwriter Moby?

Am I reading too much into this?


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