I was leary when I first started, on account of the (for me) immensely technical nature of the first couple of chapters, but I found the book as a who...moreI was leary when I first started, on account of the (for me) immensely technical nature of the first couple of chapters, but I found the book as a whole very interesting.
The book's primary shortcoming is, I think, unavoidable. It certainly succeeds at bringing the material realities of electronic texts into the larger textual studies conversation, but that achievement comes with a great deal of internal tension. Kirschenbaum's subject matter requires him to discuss a lot of subject matter (the technicalities of magnetic encoding technologies, usage of a hex editor, the binary coding behind the ASCII character set, etc.). His arguments have to assume a certain level of technological knowledge. Yet, his book is directed primarily at an audience of English professors. He makes some valiant attempts at explaining things without becoming a primer on programming, but, as a liberal arts person, I still found myself confused a lot of the time. I understand the basic principal that all things electronic also have a physical dimension, but the finer points of the discussion were lost on me. Periodically, there would be a screen shot of, for example, Mystery House opened in a hex editor. Even toward the end of the book, the only response I found myself able to have was something along the lines of “Hmmm. A long string of unintelligible symbols.” As a reader, it's frustrating, but I have to admit that even alerting me to the fact that there is such a thing as a hex editor is no small acheivement on Kirschenbaum's part. Not that I understand what, exactly, it is that a hex editor does. But at least I know that they exist and are vaguely connected with underlying code.
Overall, Mechanisms has its frustrations (besides the technical terms, I'm convinced it could have lost 50-60 pages without suffering much ill effect), but it also has plenty of interesting things to say.(less)
Unlike some books I've read on picture books, this one wasn't completely useless. However, I do feel like teacher-targeted books have a habit insultin...moreUnlike some books I've read on picture books, this one wasn't completely useless. However, I do feel like teacher-targeted books have a habit insulting my intelligence. This one, for instance, made a point of remarking that picture books are either square or rectangular in shape. I wasn't sure which to be more frustrated by: the author's pointing out the obvious or her neglect of the many atraditionally shaped picture books. In all, it has some useful information I hadn't found elsewhere, but only on a very elementary level.(less)
This is a beautiful book, and I really wanted to like it, but, in the end, it simply isn't adequate as a comprehensive study of the picture book genre...moreThis is a beautiful book, and I really wanted to like it, but, in the end, it simply isn't adequate as a comprehensive study of the picture book genre. At first, I thought that it simply didn't meet my research criteria. I'm researching picture books in the US. This book is by British authors, so they're bound to be coming from a different perspective. As I kept reading, though, I realized that the problem goes deeper than that. At one point, the authors describe their rationale for which books to include thus:
”The picturebooks we highlight in this volume are not these cosy ones, but those that are more risk-taking in every sense--demanding themes, sophisticated artistic styles, complex ideas and the implied notion of a reader as someone who will relish these challenges and take them in their stride, as long as the books are engaging.”
In other words, they chose books, not based on their historical importance for the genre or enduring popularity with children, but because they conformed to postmodern scholarly ideals. Presumably, it was this rationale that allowed them to leave out Dr. Suess altogether, while featuring a number of books by their own graudate students. The result is that the book presents an extremely skewed vision of the picture book, in which some of the most popular topics (folk tales, for instance) are never even mentioned.
Moreover, I found their research into child reactions to picture books highly suspect. I don't necessarily disagree with their findings: in many cases, they tally with my experience with my own students. However, the methodology is seriously flawed. As an educator, I recognized telltale signs that children were being led by the researchers. To top it all off, the studies cited in this book fall into only two categories: studies by the authors themselves and PhD dissertations by the authors' students. The possibilities for bias under those circumstances are mindboggling.
All of this brings us to a serious problem in the study of picture books. At least in America, the genre has changed so much over the last 20 years that the foundational studies published in the 1980s are hopelessly outdated. Children's Picturebooks is just about the only study recent enough to take those changes into account, but it has serious flaws. In the end, I'd say it's the best we've got at the moment, but I really hope a more comprehensive and responsibly researched book comes out very soon.(less)
I have to say that I think the designation of “bad quarto” is a bit harsh. There are things about this version of Hamlet that I actually like better t...moreI have to say that I think the designation of “bad quarto” is a bit harsh. There are things about this version of Hamlet that I actually like better than the Hamlet we all know. For example, I personally think that “what a dunghill idiot slave am I” is a much more powerful self-insult than “what a rogue and peasant slave am I.” Also, I'll admit that part of the charm of the quarto is that Hamlet spends a lot less time in agonizing soliloquys. I realize that this is what makes Hamlet great, but they've never been my cup of tea, and I was just as happy to be spared them. I'll be interested to see if I still feel this way after reading the folio and modern versions of Hamlet: it's possible that I've simply become more open to Hamlet as a play than I was before. For now, though, I have to say I rather like the unreliable memorial reconstruction of the play and am not necessarily sorry that it was published that way.(less)
I found Jowett's ability to describe conflicting viewpoints very refreshing. My experience of textual criticism so far has been primarily of highly do...moreI found Jowett's ability to describe conflicting viewpoints very refreshing. My experience of textual criticism so far has been primarily of highly dogmatic people insisting (even if they're postmodernists and theoretically against such black-and-white thinking) that all textual scholarship not in accord with their own is ignorant, misguided, and deeply harmful to the unsuspecting reader at the other end of the edition. Jowett obviously has his own biases and advocates his own opinions, but he is capable of presenting both sides of the question fairly and admitting that the truth is ultimately unknowable. We are highly unlikely, after all, ever to find a Shakespeare manuscript, so any prevailing theory is really just speculation.(less)