Today, I witnessed an assault on good taste, logic, and creativity. It was perpetrated by somebody who I thought was intelligent and well-read, and it occurred in our creative writing clase (where we were supposed to improve our writing). A student's piece included a mention of a character reading Spawn, a rather bad comic book. The detail fit the character and the setting well, but the tutor suggested the reference be changed to Batman. I pointed out that that changed things, so the tutor responded by asking how many people in the class knew what Spawn was. Two people raised their hands.
Somehow, this was taken as evidence that the piece should be changed. How did such a person fall prey to the idea of writing by committee? This wasn't revision for clarity or plot-- this was revision so that certain people wouldn't be confused. It actually removed something that would improve clarity for the sake of 'accessibility.' This was a command to write for the lowest section of the audience. Hell, he was holding us to a 'higher' (lower) standard then many of the writers he admires, who write for specialized audiences with specialized readers.
What's wrong with giving readers or critics the chance to puzzle things out for themselves? Many great works of literature are deliberately obscure, but even popular fiction calls on outside knowledge for effect. We live in a postmodern world; we can't deny the influence of popular culture. A much better solution would be to identify them as 'comics' and, if their content becomes a plot point, maybe explain it later... but in a short narrative, letting the deeper implications be found out by those ?in the know? would probably suffice.
If I receive any suggestions of this nature I'll probably disregard them (if they are without merit), but I wonder how many others are being given the same advice in courses across the country and across the world? Much of the literature I love-- Joyce, Borges, Dante-- gets part of its spice from the knowledge and erudition displayed by the authors. There's always something that needs puzzling out, referencing, or annotating. Remove the references and may get more 'clarity' but you also remove some of the depth and beauty.
This is not to suggest that stories just be pastiches or parodies of previous works (though such a technique can work in cinema). Rather, its a protest against any form of 'democratization' or 'anti-elitism' that forces upon people a stifling mediocrity. For further reference, see Kurt Vonnegut, Harrison Bergeron.
You usually see her in class, but she skipped it today (she told you beforehand, so you took notes for her about how your lecturer has a dog named Byron and writes bad poetry inspired by Billy Joel), so you waited for her before another class. You're talking to somebody else; time slows down and your energy is diverted; she brushes by with her smile and her nice coat, and then she has to be somewhere and she's skipping again on Wedensday; you make a quick joke about how you confessed a bit too much to her a few weeks ago and she's gone, and you say "call me" to her back, and then, as your heart sinks, you swear like a Mamet play: Fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck as you realize that it is very probable you've been caught, again.
There's too much junk about unrequited crushes on E2, some good, much tiresome, and this better not turn into that. Many of my cultural references are evidence of insecurity and lack of confidence in myself; i know that now