Reading and Writing and the Occasional Recipe: What do you think?

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Reading and Writing and the Occasional Recipe

What do you think?

Monday, October 5, 2009

I couldn’t wait to see “Bright Star.” I expected to love it.  After all--Keats, Fanny Brawne, Jane Campion--all the right credentials are in place.  Adoring reviews from everyone from A.O. Scott and David Denby to all my poetry pals.  What’s not to like?

Much to my surprise, I didn’t like it.  I found it leaden and charmless, springing to life only in the brief moments when poetry was discussed, when the little sister spoke, and when the Hampstead Heathens sang in the drawing room. 

So I expressed my opinion. And then I was sorry I did.  So many friends liked it.  They were disappointed that I didn't. I felt uneasy.  How could I not love such a beautiful, sensitive, artistic depiction of these beautiful, sensitive, artistic characters?  And then I felt a little guilty. Did  my friends think I was rejecting them or their taste?  They didn’t think I was rejecting Keats, did they?  I was simply expressing my thoughts, but my thoughts differed from theirs:  was that a problem?
Horse races aside, I guess it’s only human to want others to like what we like.  When we find a book that transports us, it feels like a gift to say to someone, “Here--you must read this.”  If they don’t like it, it does feel like rejection. Of our book, of our taste. Of our...well, not let’s not go there.  Or if it’s not rejection, then at least it’s the small loss of something we might have shared.  

It feels risky, too, when you’re the one voicing the opinion. 

“What did you think?”  

“Well, I thought...(oh, now I have to expose my thinking, my taste, discernment, intelligence, sense of humor--maybe I could just chicken out)  Um...I thought it was ok.”  

(But maybe they’d like to hear what I think, have a discussion, see my point, or try to convince me that I missed something in it.)  

“Well, actually, I didn’t like it so much.”  

“What? How could you not like it?”

Does that mean, how could you not like it when you’re a friend of mine?  Or when you’re an intelligent person?  Vanilla/chocolate, po-tay-to/po-tah-to.  Should we just keep our opinions to ourselves?

I wonder, when we ask, “what did you think,” what is it we really want to know? 

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Ellen,

This is Dorothy, Judie Baker's friend. Judie sent me your piece on Bright Star when I told her that I had seen it and didn't like it.

I enjoyed your piece because I agree with you about Bright Star. Q-E-D! For the record, I mostly didn't like Bright Star because there was absolutely no chemistry between Keats and Brawne.

Hope all is well, and hope to see you some time soon.


October 18, 2009 at 12:13 PM  
Blogger Ellen Steinbaum said...

I'm glad to know it wasn't just me....

October 20, 2009 at 10:16 AM  

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