Monday, January 11, 2010

In defense of being interesting

As promised, I've been working on my book this morning. And while I still feel lost with it, I'm confident I'll be able to sort it out one way or another.

I'm working with Hamlet in my book -- my main character's real into Ophelia. In reading some articles this morning, I stumbled on talk of T.S. Eliot's "objective correlative."

This term is popular at VCFA, but I'd never read the essay where it originated, which is called, incidentally, "Hamlet and His Problems."

And in that essay T.S. Eliot goes on and on about how Hamlet as a work of art is a big failure.

So far from being Shakespeare's masterpiece, the play is most certainly an artistic failure. In several ways the play is puzzling, and disquieting as is none of the others. Of all the plays it is the longest and is possibly the one on which Shakespeare spent most pains; and yet he has left in it superfluous and inconsistent scenes which even hasty revision should have noticed.

There's a hint that Shakespeare's failures are part of what makes the play so enigmatic and engaging:

And probably more people have thought Hamlet a work of art because they found it interesting, than have found it interesting because it is a work of art. It is the "Mona Lisa" of literature.

So the "Mona Lisa" is kind of a wash too.

Eliot says, "We must simply admit that here Shakespeare tackled a problem which proved too much for him."

Basically, Shakespeare bit off more than he could chew.

I am not aspiring to Shakespearean or DaVincian levels of greatness, and according to this other supersmart hero of mine, T.S. Eliot, even the great guys mess up. There is no way this book will ever be as perfect as I want it to be.

But I really hope it will be interesting.


Spice Girl said...

Hey Rach--
Here's a link to an essay written by a former prof of mine. I haven't read it in years, but your character's thing with Ophelia made me think of it. Might prove "interesting." :)

Send me a msg if the link doesn't work.

Rachel Wilson said...

Oooh! Thanks Ginger! I hope you're having (will have?) a great time in Vermont.

DinaBear said...

Hey Rachel! Will you send me the link to the T.S. Eliot essay? I think Ryan might find it interesting for his PT show in the fall (it's a deconstruction of Hamlet!).