August 04, 2009



I think it more likely that in pathological fear of being judged preachy or trendy, he will so downplay/subvert/ironize the issue of global warming, that no one will realize that was what the novel was supposed to be about.

Juan Murillo

Even worse is the transparent symbolism he´s promising to deliver.

"He's sort of a planet" with "endless reforming assertions of future virtue that lead nowhere"

I don't know, allegory is so XIV century.


A warning from James Wood:
"It is a problem for allegory that, while going about its allegorical business, it draws attention to itself. It is like someone who undresses in front of his window so that he can be seen by his neighbors. Allegory wants us to know that it is being allegorical. It is always saying: watch me, I mean something. I mean something; I am being allegorical. In this, it is very different from most fiction. (It resembles bad fiction.) Why does anyone tolerate it? In literature, we rarely do."
I'm trying to keep an open mind, but it's requiring a great deal of self-control. . .


Wood is wrong about allegory. The whole point of classical allegory is that it doesn't call attention to itself, because its conventions and meanings could be assumed on the part of the reader. Just as, say, the conventions of the cop-buddy movie in our day can just be assumed by the movie goer.

Allegory only "calls attention to itself" because it's no longer part of our culture. In that sense, Pindar's odes would "call attention to themselves" in our day.


Well, there's allegory that calls attention to itself and then there's allegory done right (Melville, Kafka, Mann). It's tricky, especially in the contemporary fictional climate, to do allegory well, though. As you astutely point out, Niall, allegory all too easily becomes a sore thumb on the page. I wouldn't say McEwan is quite a modern-day Melville, but Melville's allegory "works" because it overcomes itself, outstrips itself, detonates itself as it treats monstrously complex issues. Surely I'm not being very eloquent or even clear, but I meant to notate the possibility for good allegory while asserting that most of it, today especially, fails.


The last literary allegory I read was Lolita. Which, I recall, wasn't half bad.

J M Scott

Too bad I hear so much angst from lefty zealots. Your real plaform is simply "everyone is entitled to their opinion, as long as it matches mine." (and by the way, the rightist zealots are equally cracked) Stop deluding yourselves. You're wannabe omniscients, and its become fatiguing to listen to this tripe ad infinitum.


Thank you Mr. Scott. A more moderate, less zealous commentary than I have read in quite some time.


Lolita? Allegory? Nonsense. You need to look up the definition of the word.

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