“A Literary Education”

Epstein, Joseph

http://www.newcriterion.com/articles.cfm/A-literary-education-3855

http://www.newcriterion.com/articles.cfm/A-literary-education-3855

Citing Milan Kundera, Epstein reminds us that good literature always complicates.  “The novelist says to the reader: things are not as simple as you think. . . life is more surprising, bizarre, fascinating, complex, and rich than any shibboleth, concept, or theory used to explain it.”  In reading good writers we get “a strong taste for the . . .variousness of life; . . . how astonishing reality is and how obdurate to even the most ingenious attempts to grasp its mechanics or explain any serious portion of it!  From the study of literature we learn that life is sad, comic, heroic, vicious, dignified, ridiculous, and endlessly amusing sometimes by turns, sometimes all at once, but never more grotesquely amusing than when a supposedly great thinker comes along to insist that he has discovered and nattily formulated the single key to its understanding.”  Epstein is thinking of Sigmund Freud, whose “extreme determinism” seems “immensely untrue to the rich complexity of life, with its twists and turns and manifold surprises.”