How to read
I realised recently that Internet has changed the way I read. Before the internet (in the Middle Ages, in other words), discovering the individual behind the author of a book was detective work. It was necessary to follow the release of his/her latest the book, which might or might not give rise to an article in a daily, weekly or monthly (which was not online), watch literary programs at a given time , which were not subsequently put on line, read literary magazines, consult books of all kinds in the library, have a good relationship with the bookshop owner, in short, a lot of good will and work was involved , and even then, the promotional machine of the time did not reach the same level of exposure and efficiency it has today, invading every bit of the public and virtual space, sometimes ad nauseam. As a result, few authors were worth digging for information and fewer were truly known. They tended to remain behind their desk, with their paper, pencils and mysteries.
One of the authors I wanted to know better before the Internet was Kenneth White, a Scotsman of origin living in France since the sixties. He writes essays, travel stories and poetry. Reading his early books has dramatically changed my way of thinking about poetry and writing in general. As an erudite, he spoke of his journey in his books, mentioning the authors he had found along the way, hence giving me access to other authors, who subsequently inspired me a great deal. There was little talk about him and he was not part of the publishers’ promotional circuit, but I had some curiosity about the individual, which he revealed (I thought) in his essays and travel stories. Later, his writings made me feel a little uneasy, as someone who seemed to take himself more and more seriously, it seemed to me, and obsessively trying to define the borders of what would later become his movement of thought, which he baptized « geopoetics », sometimes excluding very quickly thinkers and writers from his field of interest. I eventually stopped following his writings and started to chart my own literary route (I also learned that the early Kenneth White who had the light pen that I had loved so much at the beginning of his career was actually a character created by he and his wife). Today, I am less interested in his poetry, although I still love his approach to poetry and writing in general, but still feel the same discomfort at his desire to exclude, sometimes condemn the very same people who guided and inspired him on his journey. However, it took more than ten years before this discomfort was articulated in a somewhat more substantial way, thanks, above all, to a colleague who knew him well and spoke to me about him, as well as a book published on the author (in the years 2000, I believe). Today, things would be very different. It would be enough for me to type his name in Google and I would find a site devoted to his geopoetics, numerous articles in French and English devoted to him, conferences and interviews he gave. I found a similar mixture of admiration (especially on the French side) and uneasiness (especially on the English side, which is hardly surprising, given that he dismissed the Anglo-Saxon culture in the sixties), although better documented. His quarrels with Deleuze, his assertion as to the invention of the geopoetics neologism, whereas the term seems to have already been used by others (no one would have held it against him), a rather unnecessary clumsiness, given his great erudition and his obsession with etymology. And his way (incomprehensible to me), in some of his lectures, to insist, for example, that even if he recognizes a certain affinity with, lets say, William Blake, he hates his painting (and why does he have to say it four or five times ?).
In short, I found almost intact on the Internet what I had the intuition of when I read his books, and the Internet has only made it possible to deepen it and articulate better what I think. Most of the time, it does not change the opinion I have of a book I have read. And this is true for most of the authors I read. I only like them a little more (Fay Weldon, Tim Winton), or a little less (Lionel Shriver, Elena Ferrante).