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(Vanity) Pride and Prejudice -- or, On Trust of Authors
grey_whiskers ^ | 09-24-2006 | grey_whiskers

Posted on 09/24/2006 6:28:46 PM PDT by grey_whiskers

I have found that a reliable way for me to choose authors is by word of mouth. That is, if people whom I share values, or people with whom I enjoy conversation, tell me about an author they like, I often find that I like that author as well. What is odd about this is that we often end up liking the author for completely different reasons from each other. Or, sometimes, after I read the author, I dislike much of what they say, but there is enough I do agree with that I am able to share those things with my friend.

In other words, though you cannot judge a book by its cover, you can judge it by its reputation, or by what you think of it. But that brings up another question. Have you ever, when reading a book, come across something you disagreed with and thought, or said, “this is a bunch of hooey.” ? I have, and I find that when that happens, I am now on my guard for other nonsense, and for any passages I read later which I am not sure of, or which I am skeptical of, I am *much* less likely to give the author the benefit of the doubt. I do not seem to be alone in this. For example, the celebrated novelist, the late Professor Tolkein (yes, he was a professor as well), wrote the following passage about some of the literary criticism of his fantasy in an essay:

The notion that motor-cars are more ”real” than say, horses is pathetically absurd. How real, how startlingly alive is a factory chimney compared with an elm-tree: poor obsolete thing, insubstantial dream of an escapist!

Of course, the same thing can go on, even when we are not reading—when we are talking about people, or groups with whom we do not agree. I remember many years ago in high school when I was eagerly awaiting a certain TV movie on a certain station. When I turned on the station at the time of the show, I found no movie, but instead some religious broadcast or televangelist. I was very chagrined, to the point of expressing my opinion of “those idiots”, until I looked up the TV Guide again. My show was actually on the NEXT night…making ME the idiot. And a jerk, for blaming not just a show, but the people ON the show, for my mistake. When this is carried on too far, we call it “bigotry” or “prejudice.”

On the other hand, there is the opposite of “bigotry” – it is called favoritism. What happens here is when we are reading an author with whom we agree, whose foibles we know and approve of, and let something slip by which we would ordinarily have rejected. For a personal example, I was recently re-reading C.S. Lewis’s novel That Hideous Strength. One of the main elements in the novel is the head of a decapitated scientist which has been artificially revived and sustained with a mechanical bloodstream.

One of the characters had said, “We can keep the brain alive after the body has been dispensed with—a miracle of applied biochemistry.” Now, it was an ingenious plot device. But I uncritically accepted this statement. It came to me quite suddenly that there were all kinds of scientific inaccuracies, problems, and issues with the idea which had not been addressed. I am aware of the “suspension of disbelief” which is necessary when reading a novel, but I was brought up short, when I realized that if I had come across such a contrivance in an author I disliked, I would likely have used it as a reason to jettison the entire book, if not stop reading that author.

What can I say? Obviously I need to keep a greater rein on my jaundice. Or, on my prejudice. Or even my pride—that I am a sufficient critic for virtually everything I read, even on subjects I am not an expert in. “Pride and Prejudice.” Things to beware of when making conversation with friends, or when reading books.

TOPICS: Arts/Photography; Books/Literature; Chit/Chat; Education; Miscellaneous; Society
KEYWORDS: bibliophile; greywhiskers; prejudice; reading; vanity; whiskersvanity
1 posted on 09/24/2006 6:28:51 PM PDT by grey_whiskers
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To: grey_whiskers
I have noticed myself doing this in the past. And I have to say that I will continue to do so in the future. It's not something I can change, although I can recognize it when it happens.

It's a natural result of my own opinions and reasoning.

2 posted on 09/24/2006 7:07:02 PM PDT by perfect stranger (Senator Ted Kennedy (D-Mass). "Getting bombed has always struck me as the better option.")
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