My first impression? Gardner is pretentious. Not only did he write this super intricate novel adding onto the story of the oldest villain in American literature, but he connected it with philosophy and astrology so well. This combined with the statement in his letter that he spends his valuable time “straighten[ing] out this miserable, confused world” gave me the idea that he thought himself a sort of prophet for the world, spreading his immense knowledge. Also, the way Gardner conveys his interpretation of Beowolf seems somewhat hostile towards David. While he does justify David’s incorrect interpretation, Gardner seemed to ignore the fact that he has analyzed the story of Beowolf much more than any other person, and he could have been more tactful with his correction. Then, he continues by expressing his disgust at the students’ analysis of his world view. Once again, he was somewhat brutish towards these high schoolers with nowhere near the knowledge of literature he has. He then finishes with a passive aggressive “I’m kidding” which bothered me the most. Gardner ignored the normal convention of a simple thank you letter to this insensitive response.
On the other hand, he does stress the naivety of the way the students read the work. I’ll be the first to say I did not pick up on any of the nuances we have discussed over the past week, which would have been helped by a second/slower read. Gardner then continues by masterfully defending his Grendel and the way in which he wrote, justifying the wide exploration of philosophy he performs via Grendel. I did find it admirable that Gardner chose to discuss existentialism a theory from someone he does not like. Except all he proceeds to do in the novel is use existentialism in a connotative negative medium for the downfall of Grendel.