Sunday, December 12, 2010

"… not the definitions you'd suppose …"

I am not sure how to react to Joan Frank’s piece (“Readers, rejoice!”) in the Books section of the San Francisco Chronicle.  I was glad to see that her review included The Naive and Sentimental Novelist, which is the Harvard University Press publication of the Charles Eliot Norton Lectures given by Orhan Pamuk.  However, I have to wonder just what Frank thought about her readers when she introduced those adjectives “naive” and “sentimental” with the parenthesis “not the definitions you’d suppose.”  I suppose that she supposed that her readers never heard of Friedrich Schiller, whose 1795 essay, “On Naive and Sentimental Poetry,” was the inspiration behind Pamuk’s choice of title.  (Most music lovers probably know better, since this essay also inspired John Adams’ “Naïve and Sentimental Music,” which he composed in 1999 and has been performed by the San Francisco Symphony.)  Did Frank think it would be pretentious even to mention Schiller’s name in conjunction with Pamuk’s lectures?  Do we really need reviewers who are more interested in talking down to their readers than in giving their intelligence the benefit of the doubt?

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