Saturday, November 17, 2007


Editorial Anonymous is a blog written by a children's book editor (I was tipped off to it by Brian Campbell). This is from a post about what to say in cover letters:

"Showing me that you are aware of the ingredients of a good manuscript rather than simply your reaction to it sets you apart."

That seems to me to nicely capture an important distinction: between one's understanding of how a work of art works and one's response to the work.

To this day, I cannot stand the movie Blue Velvet. But at least I confronted it once (in a class on American films) and now understand both what makes it so powerful and what makes it so disturbing.

Editorial Anonymous continues with a lovely metaphor:

"You know, most people enjoy any cake that is pretty and palatable, and that's about all they can say about it. Other bakers, though, can tell that this one has a good crumb and a touch of nutmeg and that the type of icing is a good match for the texture and sugar content of the cake."


swiss said...

i don't know about this. i don't think blue velvet's any more disturbing or powerful than you choose it to be. and really, it's a film and in daily life without a dvd player had the function of either a glittery thing or a coaster!

as to the baking metaphor, well these do seem to be popular at the moment but there are bad chefs as well as good chefs...

Andrew Shields said...

When I notice a distinction like that, I am in part responding to the way that my students read: it's all about their own reaction to something. Sometimes, their reactions are interesting, even unique, but often their reactions end up being all more or less the same.

Things begin to get interesting when the students stop focusing on their reactions and consider how whatever they are looking at works. That is, when they stop thinking about themselves and start thinking about other things, their writing actually gets more individual, even more personal.

So my use of "Blue Velvet" here is an example from my own experience: when I stopped focusing on my own reaction, I was able to see how the film works. I still did not like the film, but I was able to be impressed by Lynch's work.