himself apart, and so, in turn, he becomesnpurveyor of bad taste. We shouldnnot, then, be surprised that the teachingnof literature in our schools, for the mostnpart, ends up being an integral part ofnthis system of dependency. Ironically, itnis Gore Vidal who most aptly characterizesnthe dynamics of this bondage.nAfter taking a course in The Novel, itnis an unusual student who wouldnever want to read a novel again.nThose English courses are what havenkilled literature for the public. Booksnare made a duty. Imagine teachingnnovels! Novels used to be writtennsimply to read. It was assumed untilnrecently that there was a direct connectionnbetween writer and reader.nNow that essential connection is beingnmediated—bugged?—by Englishndepartments. Well, who needsnthe mediation? Who needs to bentaught how to read a contemporarynnovel ? Either you read it because younwant to or you don’t. Assuming, ofncourse, that you can read anything atnall. But this business of takingnnovels apart in order to show borednchildren how they were put togethet—there’sna madness in it.nOnly a literary critic would benefit,nand there are never more than tenngood critics in the United States atnany given moment. So what is thenpoint to these desultory autopsiesnperformed according to that littlenset of instructions at the end of eachntext? Have you seen one? Whatnsymbols to look for? What does thenauthor mean by the word ‘white’? Inlook at the notes appended to mynown pieces in anthologies and knowndespair.nSuch socialization ends by discouragingnthe writing of serious texts. Says Vidal:nEventually the novel will simply benan academic exercise, written by academicsnto be used in classrooms innorder to test the ingenuity of students.nA combination of Rorschachntest and anagtam. Hence, the populatitynof John Baith, a petfectnU-novelist whose books ate writtennto be taught, not to be read.nUnder such conditions art gradually losesnits intimate influence on the quality ofnsocial living, and our immunity to allnforms of outrage erodes accordingly.nIn all too many classrooms texts arenread as part of the cycle which concludesnin the testing for knowledge and facts—nwhich are generally someone else’snanswers. Seldom do texts play their propernrole of allowing the student to imaginativelynreconstruct and contemplatenthe possible range of human actions andnemotions. The genuine responses ofnstudent/readers are treated as subor-n(iinate to the omniscient interpretationsnof the teacher/scholar/critic. Thus, thesenresponses, whether accurate or not, gonunderground, only to re-emerge in thencompany of the best seller, a watereddownnversion of the literary nourishmentnso necessary in the shaping of our attitudesnto the problems of living.nijeoffrey Bocca’s sophmoric (“a nostalgicncelebration of the less-than-greatnbooks you have always been afraid to admitnyou loved”) literary excursion, BesfnSeller, is filled primarily with personalnsummaries of fifteen novels, includingnKing Solomon’s Mines, Forever Amber,nTarzan of the Apes, The Virginian andnLittle Lord Fauntleroy. This book alsonnncompares film versions with texts andnchats about cutesy anecdotes. Yet occasionallynwe catch a glimpse into why anreader’s response goes underground.nAlthough “an unrepentant dude,”nBocca, while reading The Virginian,nfound himself “in a tactile wonderlandnin Medicine Bow, absorbing every sight,nsound and smell: the cannecl corned beefnthe cowboys ate in the flyblown diningnroom, washed down with black coffeen…” These vicarious lives, especiallynvital at the age of emerging sexual awareness,nboth gratify and extend perceptions.nSuch novels, though they make nonclaim to high art, evoke realms of experiencenthat serve to mediate thenreader’s growing consciousness of competingncomplex possibilities. As a resultnof Three Weeks Bocca suggests, “Quitensuddenly a way of life of the privileged,nwealthy and highborn was laid bare tonEngland’s free lending libraries, andnanyone who had a three penny piece tonblow on a book.”nYet when we deny such works seriousnscrutiny we lose sight of their psychologicalnand emotional power. The reader isnleft at their mercy, unable to commandnhis judgments. This in turn debases thenbest seller itself into mere escape. As Boccandescribes the cinematic degenerationnof the potential that was Tarzan: “One ofnthe most original, daring and sexually innovativencreations of modern literaturenhad become junk-food viewing for obesenhousewives.” Independent literacy hasnno place in a somnambulent society.nJrlowever improbable it sounds, thensolution to the dependent literacy problem,nwere we to act upon it, is simple andndirect: talk. Talk which both performsnthe work and re-establishes the integritynof the individual’s response to a givenntext. William Gass, one of the Writers atnWork, emphasizes the notion of “thenreader as an oral interpreter,” for thenwisdom of literature is finally for the ear,nnot the eye. In commenting on film,nGass continues:nOne of the fundamental pioblemsn^•••MSSnOctober 1983n