I hate TS Eliot. I know that’s sacrilege.
One of my high school English teachers loved, LOVED, The Wasteland so we had to read it for class. I should say we had to read it in class. After reading a few lines in class and she would spend the rest of the hour explaining what they meant. This meant no homework…for weeks, that sucker is long. While most students loved it, I was disgruntled. I’ve always had trouble with poetry and the fact that this particular poem was written in code that had to be spoon-fed to me made it that much worse.
As out teacher described it, Eliot believed that literature was for the elite. You had to know Latin, Greek and a lot of the great dead writers to even get an inkling of what his allusions meant.
My philosophy is a little more populist. I love allusions. I love inside joked. But I think they should enhance a reader’s understanding or enjoyment of the piece if they get it. If they don’t, I think the piece should be able to stand on it’s own.
In his recent blog post for The Outfit, writer Kevin Guilfoile talks about Easter Eggs: personal details hidden in a book. Outside of baskets, I’ve only heard references to the term Easter Eggs in computer games: some hidden message, or possibly a separate file, that acts as a reward to the gamer for going out of their way, but not something that would affect the play.
It seems I’m not alone in my populist views of allusions.
When you write, do you throw in inside jokes? As a reader, do you look for them?
*”A lock of flats where Henry James and TS Eliot once both lived (not together, obviously).” Image description from the photographer, ricoeurian.