Monday, January 31, 2022

A Voice from the Attic

A Voice from the Attic: Essays on the Art of ReadingA Voice from the Attic: Essays on the Art of Reading 
by Robertson Davies
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

This book was written in 1960 and revised in 1972. This was a period in my own reading life when One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish was a go-to favorite. Most of the books and writers he is talking about in these essays are outside of my reading experience and his concerns about the state of reading culture (my term, not his) seem very old-fashioned to me as a 21st-century reader. 
His conclusion actually points out the problem with reading this book so long after it was written.
"This book was not undertaken to explain the world--only to make some comment on literature as it has developed during the past century. But to divorce literature wholly from the world in which it is produced is absurd; it is indeed, to deny that literature is anything more than a form of entertainment which may, in the hands of finical writers and critics, be lifted to the status of a minor art." (p. 332)
Davies' world of letters is too far from my own for these essays to have much resonance. He does raise a concern that I thought was interesting largely in that it seems to me to have been dealt with.
"There is, of course, an intellectual elite at work in the world of letters now, and it is principally composed of academic critics. So far as I can see, there is nothing much wrong with it except that it is too small, and too professionally narrow in its concerns. If it can be expanded by a million or two of the clerisy, literature and criticism will both benefit." (p. 279-80)
What he means by "the clerisy" is readers who are neither academics nor writers. The contemporaneity world of book blogging, and book-stagram, seems to me to be exactly what he was prescribing. 
This book counts toward the Canadian Reading Challenge

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