Drink deep or taste not the Pierian Spring
The trivial pursuit is to identify that as Pope but not to engage the idea. Read so as to be transformed. Gulp and absorb. Do not sip and simper about proud of tasting without being touched to your depths. Get drunk. Lose yourself in the intoxication of literature and, indeed, of all learning.
This tension between depth and surface has been brought to the forefront of my mind today by my re-reading Silverlock by John Myers Myers. Read it. I recommend it though the rest of this review is going to take it to task for teasing with taste after shallow taste.
The story is that of a man shipwrecked in The Commonwealth which is populated by story. People, animals, cities, country and situations all arise from a jumble of history, literature and Myers’s imagination. From mere survival to heroic quest everything is motivated by Silverlock, so called for the streak in his otherwise black hair, being thrown into the midst of things of which he has no clue but which the widely read might recognize. Recognition is perhaps the greatest pleasure to be gained from reading Silverlock. To avoid ruining your fun I will go little farther on that point than to add that it is from figuring out on your own who, what, when and where is who, what, when and where that the fun comes.
But there is a limit to that fun and my major complaint about Myers is that he goes well beyond that limit. Figuring out a character from context is fun. Watching Myers drop another long list of names to interrupt the story is not. The virtue of reading this book with The Silverlock Companion to hand is that I could look up obscure names from old Welsh, Irish, Scots, Norse and Chinese stories with which I am not as familiar as the English, Greek and Roman. The drag is having that interrupt the story over and over again.
One might say that a major theme of Silverlock is that reading is good for you. It strengthens your understanding of other people. It is a worthwhile investment in your humanity. I would say that reading Silverlock itself is also a worthwhile use of your time and that worth is enhanced if you are willing to drink a little deeper after the taste.
This is one of the myriad motivations behind my writing The Canterbury Tales in Neverland. There is very little name-dropping beyond the title. My goal was a deeper interplay among structure, theme, diction, rhyme, meter and other devices in an adventure tale more satisfying than Silverlock. The parallel exists of the Commonwealth as manifestation of Myers’s mind and the world of The Canterbury Tales in Neverland as mine with the added irony of a story about story telling which both honors and questions the value of story telling. Myers has a Quixotic scene but slights the Quixotic theme of the fond old man believing too strongly in his stories. The Canterbury Tales in Neverland has stories solving a real problem in one setting while distracting from reality in another, a consummation devoutly to be wished.