Yesterday I spoke to a good friend of mine about the post I wrote this week about Robert Walser’s short story “The Battle of Sempach.” Well, actually, I’d just happened to ask him whether he’d read the story, which he took, not unfairly, as an invitation to comment on the post. He told me something that, I will admit, made me a little defensive, but as time passed, spurred some thought & maybe some further exercises in the same vein as that post. Basically, the upshot of his response to the post — I’m still unsure if he liked the story, which remains the issue for me — was that I’d kind of copped out in the end by not explaining adequately what I found interesting about the story. (This is a common critique of my posts, btw, and one to which I submit without ever actually changing my blogging behavior.)
Don’t misunderstand: I’m not writing this post now to use the power of the bully pulpit to rag on my unnamed friend. He remains a friend and one whose comments on writing in general that I value. But I do wonder: why this need for commentary? Do engagements with a story or text, philosophical or fictive, have to explain it, let alone be dolled up in such a way that our explanations are described as “interpretations”? Is it not possible, I think it is, to burrow into our reading by way of our writing, and come out with something that is unavoidably interpretive, but perhaps less explanatory than exploratory? A kind of wandering that doesn’t take pictures or souvenirs, and that collects only dirt in the shoes and burs in the socks.