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Having reviewed over 1100 books on this blog, I have now written one myself. Motherdarling is a story about a search for a missing Will which reveals long-hidden family secrets. It is available on Kindle through Amazon. Read it and find out whether this critic can write. I live in Canterbury, England. I lived for more than thirty years in Bedford. Having retired from teaching; I became a research student at the University of Bedfordshire researching into Liminality. I achieved my PhD in 2019. I am now properly retired. I love reading! I enjoy in particular fiction (mostly great and classic fiction although I also enjoy whodunnits), biography, history and smart thinking. Follow me on twitter: @daja57

Sunday, 29 January 2012

"Who is Ozymandias? and other puzzles in poetry" by John Fuller

The first line of this book is not in the least bit encouraging: "This book is intended to comfort readers who find poetry difficult by showing that everyone, including professional critics, can find it difficult."


Fuller sees a poem as a puzzle, akin to a cryptic crossword, and the literary critic as a professional sleuth. So he repeatedly asks of a variety of poems: what does it mean? He finds the puzzles in the title, in the characters, in the grammar, in the vocabulary etc. And he finds the answers in metaphors, in Freud, in other literary works that have influenced the poet, in the circumstances of the poet's home life, in classic works in other languages and so on. 


Frequently he concludes that despite his own much displayed erudition it is unlikely that we will ever find the answer. This doesn't upset me because I have long ago decided that I do not care what the puzzle is if we have to spend so long discovering the solution. 

Even where I am tempted to read further I am put off by Fuller's self-assuredness. 

The Snark, we are told is Krans backwards which is the German word Kranz which means virginity. Thus the Snark represents the archetypal young girl that Lewis Carroll adored (and whom he sometimes photographed naked) and therefore the Boojum is the bosom (because the words sound similar) and the Jubjub is the bosom (because a Jub is a vessel that contains liquid, a jujube is something to be sucked and a juju is a fetish) and the Bandersnatch is menstruation from a combination of bandage and snatch! 

Really?

I was even put off when he explained that Badroulbadour is the daughter of the sultan in Aladdin because he simply has to show that he knows that Aladdin is actually Ala al-Din and that the story starts of the "731st" night of the thousand and one.

Who cares?

A book for the specialist literary critic who can cope with conceit.

January 2012; 239 pages too many

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