Monday, April 21, 2008

Umberto Eco sums up what I've been trying to say about Doctor Who so exactly that I assume I must have read the book at college and forgotten it.

"We should beware of understanding this distinction of levels as though on one side there were an easily satisfied reader, only interested in the story, and on the other a reader with an extremely refined palate, concerned above all with language. If that were so, we would have to read The Count of Monte Cristo on the first level, becoming totally enthralled by it, and maybe even shedding hot tears at every turn, and then, on the second level, we would have to realise, as is only right, that from a stylistic point of view it is very badly written, and to conclude therefore that it is a terrible novel. Instead, the miracle of works like The Count of Monte Cristo is that, while being very badly written, they are still masterpieces of fiction. Consequently the second-level reader is not only he who recognizes that the novel is badly written but also the one who is aware that, despite this, its narrative structure is perfect, the archetypes are all in the right place, the coups-de-scene judged to perfection, its breadth (though at times stretched to breaking point) almost Homeric in scope--so much so that to criticize the Count of Monte Cristo because of its language would be like criticizing Verdi's operas because his librettists, Maria Piave and Salvatore Cammarano, were not poets like Leopardi. The second level reader is then also the person who realize how the work manages to function brilliantly at the first level." -- Intertextual Irony and Levels of Reading

3 comments:

Chestertonian Rambler said...

Great quote, but does this apply to New Who for you or only Old Who?

(And what book is it from?)

Andrew Rilstone said...

The essay ("Intertextual Irony and Levels of Fiction") is in a collection just called "On Literature".

cease ill said...

I liked this (and the Pendulum) so much I decided to post it with the name of my latest story inserted in place of "Count." Any one of my friends who would be impressed by his name will know it's a joke, and it's a funny way to draw attention to it... Thank you Andrew!