Have you ever happened upon a book that you’d never heard of, but ended up enjoying it more just because you had no expectations? Book by Robert Grudin is one of those books for me. I found it at a Goodwill and it sounded like an interesting read. It was more than that–it was full of English teacher/student jokes and wry commentary about literary criticism, academia, and books.
Professor Adam Snell disappears from University of Washagon, and people are in an uproar. It becomes a fun romp with tongue-in-cheek jokes and quirky characters. I particularly enjoyed some of the definitions like this one: “New historicist: specialist who analyzes literature in terms of the theory that literary art and art in general are not independent but rather functions of cultural patterning as seen in terms of power, patronage, class, publically promoted myths, etc.” Or maybe this one: “deconstructionist: a literary theorist who believes a work of literature has no fixed meaning and can therefore be re-created in a new form with each reading.”
One of my favorite passages posits this question: “Isn’t an artist’s life honestly lived a kind of slow recuperation, a recovery of lost spirit, a knitting of broken time?”
Throughout the book, Snell’s character Sorrana Sostrata is quoted and makes some profound observations: “From time to time over the years, bands of philosophic pirates and their yea-sayers, probably for sheer love of power or gain, have advanced the argument that language does not describe but rather “creates” reality, and that there is no reality beyond language. But a speaker’s ability to feel emotion and, via language, conceive that same emotion in listeners, gives their flimsy slander the lie. Experience is not created by language; rather it descends into language and is reborn from it.”