Michael Orthofer on Why Fiction Matters | Conversations with Tyler Cowen
In a riveting conversation with Tyler Cowen, literary critic Michael Orthofer delves into the significance of fiction, the value of foreign literature, and the paradox of American literature.
He also shares his thoughts on various authors, the role of book covers, and the importance of personal selection in reading.
Book Covers: Aesthetic vs Content
While book covers can draw attention, they should not be the determining factor in choosing a book.
The aesthetics of a cover can play a role, but the content of the book is ultimately more significant.
Readers should focus more on the substance of the book rather than its appearance.
Personal Selection: A Richer Reading Experience
Readers should not rely solely on popular recommendations but should also explore lesser-known works.
The richness of literature allows for a wide range of choices, and readers should be open to taking chances on books that may not be widely recognized or recommended.
Translation: A Bridge to Foreign Literature
Translation plays a pivotal role in literature, especially in making foreign literature accessible to a wider audience.
Some books can be enhanced through translation, particularly when the translator adopts a new approach and recreates the text.
I think it’s better to read from everywhere, from all over the place, rather than one specific locale. – Michael Orthofer
Complex, Long, and Puzzling Books: A Rewarding Challenge
Complex, long, and puzzling books offer a unique challenge and depth that can be rewarding for readers.
These works often provide comprehensive narratives and compelling stories that can enrich the reading experience.
Overrated and Underrated Literature
American literature, especially popular literature, is often overrated and too dominant worldwide.
Conversely, regional language literature of India and the works of authors like Goethe and Herman Melville are often underrated and underappreciated.
J.K. Rowling and Arno Schmidt: A Comparative Analysis
While J.K. Rowling is considered overrated as a writer, her significance as a cultural phenomenon is acknowledged.
Arno Schmidt, a German author known for his complex novels, is appreciated for his immense accomplishment in works like ‘Bottom’s Dream.’
Bookstores and Publishers: Guiding Lights for Readers
Bookstores and publishers play a significant role in guiding readers towards good books.
Readers are advised to trust the staff at bookstores for recommendations and to look at the publisher or imprint of a book as a source of information.
Encouraging Children to Read: A Personal Journey
Children should be given the freedom to explore books on their own.
Reading should be a personal experience, especially for children, and they should be allowed to make their own choices and find their own way in literature.
Poetry in Translation: A Challenge Worth Taking
Poetry is more challenging to appreciate in translation due to its nuanced and language-specific nature.
However, it is still important to explore foreign literature in depth, including fiction and poetry.