Now that she admitted her "laziness" and acknowledged her weakness in her essay, making those who had praised it before either feel bad or look bad, I'd like to stand against the odds and tide, and just to say a few "nice" words about her essay. It looks “nice” to me because it is better than my expectations. When she announced she would visit Twain's homeplace and write an essay about it, I began to worry about the outcome.
In my humble opinion, travelling is the least guarantee as a source or inspiration for writing. Most tourist trips just end up boring and fruitless. The higher the expectation, the worth the outcome. A tour to a place associated with an established writer is probably the worst. Writing about such a trip has the double curses instead of blessings.
First, I never trust such a trip could help one understand the author better. Again, in my humble opinion, knowing more about the author's life does not help you understand the author's book(s) if you could not appreciate the works in the first place. When I was in school, teachers' talks about background of the author only help to make the book taste bad. I never care about collecting those materials either. Given the time limits in one's life, I would read the book twice if it is really good rather than learning more anecdotes about the author. Since I don't expect that much knowledge about the author can help understand his/her work, I have been only left with pure curiosity on this matter. That sort of interests seldom warrants a full-length article. That's why I began to worry if she could come up with anything really good. In fact, I even suspect she is too close to the "tide of kitsch." (Thanks to Connie’s post I now know how to spell this word.)
Second, writing based on current travelling experience has never been my favorite thing to read. As a literature form, this kind of writing only becomes valuable if the travel was in the past and/or the author has become even more established than before. Otherwise it is just tourist pamphlets or journalist reports, at the best. I also have such a personal bias against reading this kind of things. If it is about a place truly worthwhile to visit, I will reserve for my own eyes! Why shall I bother to feel the beauty through another beholder's eyes? So I'll just try to remember the name of the place and never bother to read the full article.
Against such odds, Maya's essay came out better than I can ever expect. Instead of a lecture on Twain’s life that seems or tries to explain why he is so great, I found the other aspect of him as a person or individual. The contrast between a successful writer and a failed businessman is amusing and enlightening. It makes me recall some similar things that happened to Lin Yu-tang, who lost a great fortune trying to invent a Chinese typewriter. The anecdotes help illustrate a point recently being discussed in Maya’s Café through different conversations. That is, what makes a writer a writer? The lot of idiosyncrasy we heard seem to help shed lights on this issue.
Let me conclude before this gets dull and boring. In short, I think her essay comes out passing the test or hurdle she has set up for herself, and I personally feel that I benefit from reading it. Hope these words of mine give the birthday or the anniversary party of her column a little bright ending. And many happy returns of the day!
- Re: Against the tide and odds, I'd like to say a few "nice" words about Maya's essay on Mark Twainposted on 09/21/2003
- RE: Against the tide and odds, I'd like to say a few "nice" words about Maya's essay on Mark Twaposted on 06/23/2020
Reply #1 令胡冲
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