26 July 2010

Virginia Woolf and Emily

I've just spent the first week of the summer recess in Andalucia with my grand-daughter - a tall and shapely young woman of twenty-five with forthright opinions and an unquenchable appetite for soft drinks of all kinds. Whilst we lounged reading in the garden under the palm trees my attention has been occupied by Virginia Woolf, one of my favourite writers who was not dissimilar in appearance. Actually, I have been reading what academic critics have to say about her.

The state of academic literary criticism is dire. Essays and articles are written with only one thing in mind - self-promotion. Fashionable critical attitudes vary from 'Queer' criticism to post-feminist feminism and post-deconstructionist balderdash. All of these schools have one thing in common: they are not interested in the literary source itself, but only what other critics have said.

Having spent a great part of my adult life trying to infuse a sense of critical enthusiasm for literature into generations of students, I find this sort of writing extremely depressing. It will do nothing to promote an appreciation or a taste for the subject. Fortunately, most of it will rightly be ignored by most common readers and forgotten by competitors in the academic rat race who will move on to something else more fashionable.

These occasions also give me the opportunity to immerse myself in music of my own choice. I subscribed to Spotify.com for that very reason. Type in the name of your selected artist or genre, and up comes a daysworth of listening, uninterrupted by adverts for the paltry sum of £4.99 a month - no matter where you are. I normally shower to Bill Frissel and dine to Tommy Flanagan, but tonight I have gone further back to the much under-rated Wardell Gray.

Tomorrow morning, I am going to miss Emily's comforting presence as she eats her toast whilst watching daytime TV.

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