The Idiot and the Dog

January 19, 2008

I was going to write a long introductory statement of belief about literature, but realised this was completely pointless, any such statement requiring so much unwarranted assertion and counter-assertion that it sinks under the weight of accumulated sub-clauses and impedimenta.

However, I think it’s worth pointing out that I was stung into action by this article and a general preponderance towards this sort of thing on the web.

 “…the tyranny of turning the pages”? 

If you feel like that, read a dictionary; I recommend the 1973 edition of the Shorter Oxford English Dictionary on Historical Principles: the zebra did it, as the old joke goes.

The Idiot and the Dog is also intended as an account of the return to wider reading that I started last year. For various reasons I felt that I had become narrow in my tastes, only picking up what I already knew I wanted to read. So I decided to start exploring again – a tyro wanderer, stick in hand (to swipe away nettles and aid in the negotiation of arduous routes), with my critical dog beside me, leashed but not muzzled.

The idiot and dog combination has another advantage, it being the case that a man out for a solitary walk in the country may idly speculate aloud to his dog about all manner of things, despite the lack of an audience, without his peremptory judgements and casual observations attracting undue attention or censure from passers by.

The idiot part? Well, let’s just say that my ignorance precedes me; I’ve a tendency to make hasty and ill-informed judgements, which I later realise are, even in an age of critical relativism, totally wrong; I frequently mistake trite sentiment for profound emotion and am inclined to find the profound pretentious and dull; also, and most regrettably in my opinion, I’ve got a tin ear when it comes to poetry, so that any judgements of quality in that sphere are often a matter of educated guesswork.