The OF Blog: Borges Month: Borges on James Fenimore Cooper

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Borges Month: Borges on James Fenimore Cooper

Since my innocent quoting of what Borges said about Tolkien seemed to inflame passions not commensurate with its lack of vitriol, I wonder what the reaction will be to Borges' comments on James Fenimore Cooper (The Last of the Mohicans), found in Introducción a la literatura norteamericana:

Su prosa palabrera, abarrotada de vocablos de origen latino, reúne todos los defectos y ninguna de las virtudes del estilo de su época.  Hay un contraste incómodo entre la violencia de los hechos narrados y la lentitud de su pluma.  Stevenson generosamente nos dice Cooper is the wood and the wave (Cooper es la selva y la ola). (p. 22)

His verbose prose, stuffed with a vocabulary of Latin origin, unites all of the defects and none of the virtues of the style of his epoch.  There is an uncomfortable contrast between the violence of the narrative acts and the slowness of his pen.  Stevenson generously tells us that "Cooper is the wood and the wave."


Thoughts on this judgment, compared to the one on Tolkien?

16 comments:

Crickets said...

*crickets*

S.M.D. said...

I have a really fancy-looking edition of Last of the Mohicans (got it for dirt cheap at a used bookstore). I remember trying to read it and having difficulties with the prose, in much the same way as I have had difficulties with Tolkien's prose. Beyond that, I don't think I'm qualified to comment.

Larry said...

The prose is truly Bulwer-Lyttonesque, and what Borges says fits my opinion of Cooper's works quite nicely.

E. L. Fay said...

Yep, I agree with Borges here.

Chad Hull said...

No complaints from me.

The Flying Halftrak said...

Heaven forbid I respond lest I include any vitriol.

Derrick said...

As I stated before

WHY should I CARE what Borges thinks/says?

Nobody, ie, Larry, has given a reason why it is important to listen to him.

What makes his voice greater than others? I don't really care about his opinions, but am interested in why you are giving him such a voice?

Larry said...

Derrick,

If you haven't read the 20+ posts on Borges' writings that I've made over the past three weeks or so, then why would I want to say a few more words? Borges simply was one of the more influential 20th century writers and although that doesn't guarantee infallibility (only Popes get that, apparently), it certain makes me for one pay more attention to what he says than I would to someone who just appears on someone's blog and asks these questions rather than investigating for himself.

I suggest you look into the matter independently of what I have to say on the matter, more or less.

Chad Hull said...

Something I just thought concerning the comments on Cooper and Tolkien; Tolkien was more or less a contemporary, while Cooper was antiquated in Borges time.

I think the time perspective matters.

As a reader today, I identify better with Elizabeth Bear than Tolkien and I think that context of sixty years is part of the reason why. Writing trends change publishing trends change the 'world' changes. The time disparity was even bigger for Borges commenting on Carroll, Tolkien and Cooper.

Just a thought

Larry said...

I think time and language changes do play a major role. Still, it's hard to account for why Carroll was viewed more favorably (unless it's due to his imaginative situations) than Tolkien.

Maybe another factor could be the amount of imaginative license that some authors allow readers to have with their stories? I've never felt all that "free" to let my imagination roam free when reading works like Tolkien than when I'm reading stories that are more whimsical in nature.

Chad Hull said...

Your last comment definitely rings true for me. It seems to me Tolkien wanted readers experience his world. Thus, he spelled everything out in explicit detail leaving no room for reader interpretation.

Perhaps Borges was more of an impressionist and wanted there to be room for readers to take an active role in a story and 'fill in the blanks.' I can't speak for the authors but my preference lies room for thought rather than force feed every detail.

Larry said...

My sympathies lie in that direction as well. As for Borges, he was certainly influenced by the Symbolists, so that might explain his aversion to explaining things in graphic detail.

Chad Hull said...

Wow, I should really proof read my comments...

I suck at writing. (It seems I want others to 'fill in the blanks' of my commentary as well.)

Derrick said...

well, I usually only read your reviews. I don't really care about the other stuff :-)

Larry said...

But I label all of the Borges book commentaries as reviews! :P

Derrick said...

I glance at ALL your posts. Haven't looked at a "label" yet.

Hence my comments here and the tolkien one :-)

 
Add to Technorati Favorites