Last Saturday, I ventured into a branch of Chapters-Indigo (Canada’s answer to Waterstones) intent on browsing in Terry Eagleton’s How to Read Literature. There were apparently two copies on the Literary Criticism shelf. Did I want to buy the book or would I find it too general?
I wasn’t totally surprised to discover that the Literary Studies shelf was hidden around the corner from Fiction and Literature and behind Fantasy and Mystery; after all, some readings of texts are both fantastic and mysterious. But why oh why were two large tables stacked in front of the shelf rendering access to the books nigh on impossible? How should I read this situation? Was it a metaphor for something? Should I read the situation allegorically? Possibly.
Literal: Two tables Stacked.
Allegorical: A bar to learning.
Moral: A physical and intellectual challenge to be overcome.
Anagogical: Intellectual difficulties to be clarified by personal effort.
Considering neither my age nor my dignity, and in the sudden absence of anyone with a name badge, I chose praxis over theoria and clambered on to the stacked tables, took down the Eagleton, and started to browse. Yes, it is as the Kirkus Reviewer suggests “a genial guide to exactly what the title promises, for readers who aren’t particularly experienced or critical” (https://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/terry-eagleton/how-to-read-literature), and I suppose I can argue that I am “experienced” and “critical.” But I bought it anyway. Geniality in Lit. Crit. has an awful lot going for it. I then sought out Eagleton’s Why Marx Was Right and On Evil: these last being stocked in the Philosophy section and easily accessible. Also got carried away and bought Stephen Nadler’s The Philosopher, The Priest, and the Painter: A Portrait of Descartes and Kate Atkinson’s Life After Life. No doubt I shall review some or all of these next month.