Anne, the blogger behind Fernham, is the kind of woman who likes to be prepared. Knowing her baby was on the way, she graded student papers early, copyedited her work in advance, and even blogged through the early pangs of labor. Her organization and presence of mind inspires awe.
Instead of What to Expect When You're Expecting, Anne dug into the LBC titles and sent us her insightful take on Ticknor. She references both Ticknor and Television in her notes — you will be hearing more on the comparison between these two titles when we discuss Television during the week of May 29th.
For now we hope Anne is resting and recovering and spending plenty of time with her newborn. We send her all our good thoughts and wishes and we look forward to her return to the blogging bureau. Below are her reading notes on Ticknor:
Reading about writer's block
By chance, I read these two books one after the other and, both times, I got stuck—I almost couldn't go on because the sense of identification with the unhappy, blocked narrator was too intense. This is my character—when I'm reading contemporary fiction, I tend to plunge in with too great a suspension of disbelief and much too great a willingness to identify with the narrator. It's partly circumstantial, too: I was embroiled in a bit of a copyediting nightmare of my own as I read about these unhappy writers. But to call the narrator of Television unhappy may be to project my all-to-American work ethic onto him. Think about when he goes to the park and strips down to the nude, in the German way, thinking about how to begin his manuscript: "But wasn't this working, I asked myself, this gradual, progressive opening of the mind, this steady sharpening of the senses?" (51)
What you're missing
Ticknor obsesses about what he might be missing at the party—torn between knowing reminders that all large dinner parties are ultimately dull, that he is not the most glittering or beloved of the guests, and hoping or fearing that this night will be different. In Television, the narrator seesaws between the knowledge of how dumb television is and the sense, when you're not watching, that "something might happen if you turned it on" (66). This is a writer's dilemma, it seems to me: that sense of trying to strike the balance between the living necessary to sustain a mind and imagination and the retreat necessary to get the actual writing done. The comedy in both novels comes from the way in which these writers screw up the balance completely—neither living fully nor writing.