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"The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog."
January 16, 2009 10:09 AM   Subscribe

"We could all do worse than to write like Saul Bellow. And when I say write like Saul Bellow, I mean be Saul Bellow. And when I say be Saul Bellow, I mean unzip the skin from his body and wear it as a sort of Saul Bellow suit so that we can get cozy in it and truly inhabit it and understand the Old Macher."

Writer Colson Whitehead parodies formidable literary critic James Wood and his 2008 treatise, How Fiction Works. At this point in his increasingly controversial scholarship, Mr. Wood is probably used to such cheek from those kids writing books on his lawn.

James Wood has applauded the study of literature as an ageless aesthetic rather than a reflection on contemporary culture, fractured selfhood, and globalization--a view cherished by older critics like Harold Bloom and lately eschewed by the 43-year old Harvard professor's newfangled contemporaries. Wood's hidebound distaste for identity politics marks a schism between late modernism and post-modernism, a rift best viewed from above in this infamous review of Zadie Smith's Booker Prize-winning White Teeth. Lamenting the new face of literature that revels in confusion, distortion, paranoia, and so-called hysterical realism, Wood not only wagged his finger at Smith, but also took literary giants Salman Rushdie, Thomas Pynchon, and David Foster Wallace to task for tampering with the novel's "delicate structure." Smith responded to Wood's eulogy for the novel with characteristically wry idiom: "The novel is not an immutable fact of human artistic life, after all, just a historically specific phenomenon that came and will go unless there are writers who have the heart, the brain and, crucially, the cojones to keep it alive."

For now, Wood reigns comfortably as one of the most daunting critics of literature in English, even enjoying a few tentative fans from the under-40 crowd. But the success of writers like Colson Whitehead, a 31-year old, African-American, Pulitzer Prize-candidate who lists a Run DMC song as an "important plot point" in his upcoming novel Sag Harbor, marks yet one more step in literature's shift from the 20th century to the 21st.
posted by zoomorphic (65 comments total) 22 users marked this as a favorite

 
Bloom is an extremely intelligent man who is utterly, utterly wrong.
posted by roll truck roll at 10:15 AM on January 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


That was pretty funny, thanks!
posted by Mister_A at 10:16 AM on January 16, 2009


Alter macher would have been funnier. Yiddish is like spice. Too much and it can be overwhelming, but too little and it looks like you are both afraid of flavorlessness and of flavor.
posted by Astro Zombie at 10:21 AM on January 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


Bloom is an extremely intelligent man who is humanity's last hope against bad writing, "re-imaginings" of Shakespeare, and snark.
posted by Damn That Television at 10:21 AM on January 16, 2009 [3 favorites]


Wow, that Harold Bloom interview...I don't know whether to call it "softball" or just "fellatio."

I'd also object to the characterization of literature as progressing towards a glorious, multicultural, non-James-Wood 21st century. Literary "conservatism" has, time and again, proven its ability to reassert itself--typically as neoclassicism of some form or other. I don't think that's a bad thing.

But great post, regardless.
posted by nasreddin at 10:28 AM on January 16, 2009


Wood is an extremely intelligent man who is utterly, utterly awesome.
posted by halfling at 10:31 AM on January 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


Too deep...can't easily snark....aaaaaugh!
posted by telstar at 10:32 AM on January 16, 2009


Bloom is an extremely intelligent man who is humanity's last hope against bad writing, "re-imaginings" of Shakespeare, and snark.

I never get stuff like this, even leaving aside the hyperbole. With writing came bad writing, probably almost immediately. Probably the first written sentence that wasn't, say, grain accounting, was something like, "I sure hate tiny penis Carl" or "Grain accounting blows dead dogs."

As for the perils of "re-imagining" Shakespeare, let's take a look at his works after 400 years or so of plundering, pillaging and sacking his stuff.

*looks*

Hey, they're still there! Whew.
posted by Skot at 10:33 AM on January 16, 2009 [7 favorites]


Excitable fellow.
posted by Joe Beese at 10:34 AM on January 16, 2009


I am disappointed that the post isn't actually about Saul Bellow.
posted by The World Famous at 10:39 AM on January 16, 2009 [4 favorites]


Phillips heard someone at the door and went to answer it.

Whitehead claims that the second portion of this sentence belabors the point and insults our intelligence. Is it not even remotely possible that Phillips could have heard someone at the door and ignored it? or run into another room and hid under a blanket? or simply wondered who it was? When I take into account the fact that Whitehead probably cherry-picked the sentence in the first place (though he says he chose it at random), I am left with the feeling that he is trying too hard to find things to dislike about modern writers.
posted by ubiquity at 10:40 AM on January 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


Phillips heard someone at the door and went to answer it.

It was the Jehovah's Witnesses again, so he hid and pretended that he wasn't home.
posted by fixedgear at 10:42 AM on January 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


But the success of writers like Colson Whitehead, a 31-year old, African-American, Pulitzer Prize-candidate who lists a Run DMC song as an "important plot point" in his upcoming novel Sag Harbor, marks yet one more step in literature's shift from the 20th century to the 21st.

He's 41 not 31. In college we all called him "Chip" (He was the roommate of a friend of mine) That college would be Harvard which he attended after attending the prep school Trinity. He is of course African-American but if the Run DMC reference meant to imply an undercurrent of "from the streets" or "disadvantaged", that implication does not pan out.
posted by vacapinta at 10:43 AM on January 16, 2009 [7 favorites]


Whitehead claims that the second portion of this sentence belabors the point and insults our intelligence. Is it not even remotely possible that Phillips could have heard someone at the door and ignored it? or run into another room and hid under a blanket? or simply wondered who it was? When I take into account the fact that Whitehead probably cherry-picked the sentence in the first place (though he says he chose it at random), I am left with the feeling that he is trying too hard to find things to dislike about modern writers.

Hmmmm...this is either really stupid or too clever by half. You do know that Whitehead was taking the piss, right?
posted by billysumday at 10:48 AM on January 16, 2009


Phillips heard someone at the door and went to answer it.

Then came a knock on the door. And this sound was the same dark-brown tone as the wood of which the door was made. At first, he thought hed imagined it, because it would not have been out of place with the other strange hallucinatory events of that night. But then it came again, only heavier this time and with a sense of real urgency. So, pulling himself up and stepping through pools of moonlight and shadow, he made his bleary way across the room towards the door, and slowly--apprehensively--raised the latch.

The latch became a fingertip, touching his own.
posted by The World Famous at 10:48 AM on January 16, 2009


It wasn't perfect, but I admit it. I laughed. And I like Raymond Carver. (Not as much as my writing teachers (and classmates), however....)

"Leave the Porch Light On, It'll Be Dark" - ;)

I'm essentially a Formalist when it comes down to it, but based on that intereview, I think Bloom is misguided; I'm glad I've never bothered with him at all. And I love Shakespeare, fwiw. (The only college class I ever got an A+ in...)

"My child ..." - what a douche.
posted by mrgrimm at 10:49 AM on January 16, 2009


The only thing worse than re-imaginings of Shakespeare is unedited, original Shakespeare.
posted by DU at 10:49 AM on January 16, 2009 [3 favorites]


For now, Wood reigns comfortably as one of the most daunting critics of literature in English, even enjoying a few tentative fans from the under-40 crowd. But the success of writers like Colson Whitehead, a 31-year old, African-American, Pulitzer Prize-candidate who lists a Run DMC song as an "important plot point" in his upcoming novel Sag Harbor, marks yet one more step in literature's shift from the 20th century to the 21st.

I'm not sure I follow the chain of logic here...other than maybe the pop culture nod (and there are plenty of those in Mr. Shakespeare), what here is the thing that you think Wood would find objectionable?
posted by kittens for breakfast at 10:51 AM on January 16, 2009


Without even knowing anything about Colson Whitehead, I thought the same thing as vacapinta after reading the post. Why does having a Run DMC song as an important plot point inherently put you in any class of novelist other than "novelist who wrote a book after 1983"?
posted by kcalder at 10:55 AM on January 16, 2009


ubiquity, that is just the problem–the writer is obviously a moral relativist and less than half a man if he feels the need to explain that the knock led to the answering of the door. Only a craven coward would ever consider anything short of answering the door, even if the four horsemen of the apocalypse, or Michelle Malkin & Ann Coulter were doing the knocking. The use of the conjunction "and" suggests that there was some choice, some doubt, some room for equivocation in Phillips's mind as to whether or not he should answer the door.
posted by Mister_A at 10:56 AM on January 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


Re-imaginings of most popular literary works tend to be Mary Sues or explicit, improbable sexual recombinations, or both. Re-imaginings of Shakespeare tend to be a lot more varied and creative, and the fanfic is comparatively minor. So what's wrong with re-imaginings of Shakespeare? Are Bloom and Wood afraid of an impending wave of Falstaff / Lear slashfic?
posted by ardgedee at 10:58 AM on January 16, 2009


If it is not on YouTube, I don't bother with it.
posted by Postroad at 10:59 AM on January 16, 2009


ubiquity, I think Whitehead's just parodying Wood.
posted by hermitosis at 11:00 AM on January 16, 2009


vacapinta, I don't know where I got Whitehead's age now that I think about it. Still, I think the fact that Wood is only two years older than Whitehead--and still younger than DFW!--is one of the most interesting aspects of his scholarship. In any case, I wasn't suggesting that Whitehead's blackness implies a de facto post-modernism, but that his style--ironic, self-referential, speculative, grounded in politics and race--is exactly what Wood finds too messy and contemporary for the sacrosanct novel.

KfB: Wood's reaction to Whitehead and his ilk is pretty clear from his review of White Teeth. Whitehead's piece overall characterizes Wood's reception among "younger" writers who feel that he's a stodgy prude who gets his knickers in a wad anything that acknowledges the fact that MTV and the internet have fundamentally changed a generation of thinkers.
posted by zoomorphic at 11:04 AM on January 16, 2009


Well you are missing out on a lot of good porn then, Postroad.
posted by Mister_A at 11:05 AM on January 16, 2009


I'm just disappointed this post isn't about Silence of the Lambs/Nobel Laureate crossover fan fiction.
posted by Bromius at 11:07 AM on January 16, 2009


On a slightly more serious note, I would point out to Bloom and Wood that the reason so much of modern fiction slogs through this ambivalent territory of sexual politics, racial politics, identity politics in general, is that so much of modern life is a slog through these conflicted and ambivalent lands. Being black, or white, or Chinese, or Irish, or Jewish used to have very narrowly defined boundaries and limits; these boundaries, while always somewhat porous, are much harder to identify than they used to be. Modern fiction reflects the uncertainty of modern life.
posted by Mister_A at 11:10 AM on January 16, 2009


but that his style--ironic, self-referential, speculative, grounded in politics and race--is exactly what Wood finds too messy and contemporary for the sacrosanct novel.


I sincerely doubt those are the reasons. You could as well be describing Saul Bellow with that same sentence.
posted by lucia__is__dada at 11:11 AM on January 16, 2009


I never understood the problem with reimagining Shakespeare. If there were a blanket rule against writing fictional works based on pre-existing material than a good chunk of Shakespeare's own plays wouldn't exist.
posted by kcalder at 11:11 AM on January 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


Yes, Whitehead is an African-American writer...but what really marks him as a voice for our time: he is a skinny, African-American writer.
posted by neroli at 11:13 AM on January 16, 2009


Phillips heard someone at the door and poured another screwdriver.
posted by ardgedee at 11:13 AM on January 16, 2009 [2 favorites]


He's 41 not 31.

Thank you, Vacapinta, for clearing that up. If I had found out that Colson Whitehead was three years younger than me...well, it would have been a looong weekend, let's just say that.
posted by Ian A.T. at 11:21 AM on January 16, 2009


This post was too long for me to read, to say nothing of the linked article. That said, I can tell this post is awesome, and have favorited it as such.
posted by shmegegge at 11:26 AM on January 16, 2009


I never understood the problem with reimagining Shakespeare. If there were a blanket rule against writing fictional works based on pre-existing material than a good chunk of Shakespeare's own plays wouldn't exist.

Excellent point.

But having granted it, you'd still be hard-pressed to find many reimaginings that would win an objectively judged contest of merits between them and Shakespeare's version. For every Peter Brooks' King Lear or Peter Greenaway's Prospero's Books, you'll have a dozen John Cassavetes' Tempest.

Think of it this way: John Huston's The Maltese Falcon was a remake. But it would seem definitive compared to any imaginable remake now.
posted by Joe Beese at 11:28 AM on January 16, 2009


We could all do worse than to write like Saul Bellow. And when I say write like Saul Bellow, I mean be Saul Bellow.

I had a class taught by Saul Bellow. Saul Bellow is an asshole.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 11:37 AM on January 16, 2009 [2 favorites]


But having granted it, you'd still be hard-pressed to find many reimaginings that would win an objectively judged contest of merits between them and Shakespeare's version.

Well... yeah, that's a virtually unassailable statement unless you're hoping someone's going to dig up a better writer than the Bard (don't look at me!) But basically all of Shakespeare's stories were already "re-imaginings" from European myth, rural folklore, and Plutarch's Parallel Lives.

And while there are many dreadful monster babies who have descended from the Bard's fine pedigree, books like A Thousand Acres start out with Shakespeare's depiction of gender and power and wind up nuancing the original tragedy as well.
posted by zoomorphic at 11:46 AM on January 16, 2009


This article is hilarious, and I say that as someone who enjoys Bloom and Wood.

That sounds a bit rude doesn't it?
posted by Potomac Avenue at 11:52 AM on January 16, 2009


Joe Beese, you are right to a point - but the wonderful thing is that, someday, there will be an unimaginable remake, a remake that destroys expectations.

Speaking of remakes, Kurosawa's Throne of Blood was the finest Shakespeare production I have ever seen.
posted by Mister_A at 11:56 AM on January 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


Think of it this way: John Huston's The Maltese Falcon was a remake. But it would seem definitive compared to any imaginable remake now.

It wasn't so much a remake as a new version based on the same book. And I like the 1931 version -- it is naughtier and lighter. Satan Met a Lady, from 1936, is also basically The Maltese Falcon, and is a lot of fun. That being said, there is no Joel Cairo quite like Peter Lorre.

/pedant.
posted by Astro Zombie at 11:57 AM on January 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


I never understood the problem with reimagining Shakespeare. If there were a blanket rule against writing fictional works based on pre-existing material than a good chunk of Shakespeare's own plays wouldn't exist.

I think the reason many people have a knee-jerk impulse to avoid re-imagining Shakespeare is because far, far more people make the attempt than SHOULD do so .

....I've worked in the off-off Broadway theater community for ten years. Trust me when I say that there are some people who should not have attempted to re-imagine Shakespeare.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:00 PM on January 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


Hell, I think most theater companies shouldn't even try Shakespeare. I've seen too many productions by actors who don't understand their dialogue proclaiming to audiences who likewise don't understand.

But, then, a lot of theater companies should be attempting to find better things to do with their lives than produce horrible theater, says the theater critic of ten years.
posted by Astro Zombie at 12:04 PM on January 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


posted by EmpressCallipygos at 3:00 PM on January 16 [+] [!]

Flagged as callipygian. Rrowr!
posted by Mister_A at 12:07 PM on January 16, 2009


This sentence is short, not because it is brief—which it is—but because it has few words.

yeah, that was a funny article.
posted by gaspode at 12:14 PM on January 16, 2009


But having granted it, you'd still be hard-pressed to find many reimaginings that would win an objectively judged contest of merits between them and Shakespeare's version.

Come on now. You have apparently never seen Strange Brew.
posted by The World Famous at 12:18 PM on January 16, 2009 [2 favorites]


But, then, a lot of theater companies should be attempting to find better things to do with their lives than produce horrible theater, says the theater critic of ten years.

This literary-manager-for-five-years can see one advantage to doing Shakespeare instead of doing a new play -- at least you know that you've got a good script.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:20 PM on January 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


You don't NEED to re-imagine Shakespeare, because his writing is universal. (Is Bloom's argument, in a nutshell.)
posted by Damn That Television at 12:22 PM on January 16, 2009


It wasn't so much a remake as a new version based on the same book.

At what point does it cross the lne? Is there any way Tim Burton's Willy Wonka could have avoided being at least partly a remake of the earlier film, even if he was aiming for a faithful adaptation of the Dahl book?

In 1941, was "The Maltese Falcon" more frequently associated with Hammett's book or the 1931 movie?
posted by Joe Beese at 12:22 PM on January 16, 2009


This literary-manager-for-five-years can see one advantage to doing Shakespeare instead of doing a new play -- at least you know that you've got a good script.

If I were a theater producer, I'd do reimaginings of Sam Shepard plays - at the least, it'd be easy to find an actor decent enough to beat a pile of dirt with an umbrella and shout, Dixie! Dixie! Oh Dixie you cur!

And that's why I'm not a theater producer.
posted by billysumday at 12:24 PM on January 16, 2009


I know I am missing out on good porn but as grandmother used to say: so much porn. So little time.
posted by Postroad at 12:24 PM on January 16, 2009


This literary-manager-for-five-years can see one advantage to doing Shakespeare instead of doing a new play -- at least you know that you've got a good script.

And this ex-actor/theater staffer can name another one: people will actually go out to watch Shakespeare, because, you know, it's "good."
posted by Skot at 12:27 PM on January 16, 2009


The other advantage is you don't have to pay Shakespeare anything. And the end result is that we'll have a lot of Shakespeare and very few worthwhile new plays, because there is just no money in it.

You want good new scripts? You have to support living playwrights, and really support them, by producing their plays and paying them.
posted by Astro Zombie at 12:32 PM on January 16, 2009


gaspode beat me to my favorite pull-quote, so let me just say: thanks for the read. (The first link, that is; I skipped the other stuff, not needing to be exposed to more of Bloom's hyperintelligent egomaniacal ramblings.)

Also, I really wish I knew whether ubiquity was joining in the fun or was genuinely clueless.
posted by languagehat at 12:40 PM on January 16, 2009


tl;dr

I lie: "It is about to spread the labia of mediocrity and rut with the ineffable."
posted by fcummins at 12:51 PM on January 16, 2009


You don't NEED to re-imagine Shakespeare, because his writing is universal. (Is Bloom's argument, in a nutshell.)

Which is exactly I both love Bloom's books and find him detestably obsolete. The beauty of Shakespeare's plays how they are the voice of Renaissance thought while transcending time and place. Can you imagine adapting a Restoration play that centers on the minutia of upper-class 18th century etiquette into a production with contemporary characters? No, because Congreve wrote about the particulars of his time period that lacked the momentum to survive the next generation.

In a way, I think that's what Wood sees as problematic with postmodern and postcolonial literature--novels preoccupied with "contemporary" intersections of race, gender, class, and nationality might not stand up to the test of time. But this strikes me as a shortsighted attempt to circumscribe the inexorable effects of globalization into a one specific time period rather than recognize that globalization has inexorably changed the future. But maybe that's my own purblind bias, since I live in a globalized world.
posted by zoomorphic at 12:55 PM on January 16, 2009


Yea, will you come back ubiquity?
posted by Mister_A at 12:58 PM on January 16, 2009


Until then, silence is damning.
posted by zoomorphic at 1:03 PM on January 16, 2009


Zoomorphic, I see them as much more than the voice of Renaissance thought, is my feeling. I think his writings on the main themes of human life -- love, greed, duplicity, revenge -- transcend even the concept of voice.

And Congreve (et al) can't really be used as examples because no one -- not even Dante -- ever really came close to WS.

My general feeling is just: dozens of millions from all walks of life and all cultures have read Shakespeare over the course of centuries, and, unless I'm wildly mistaken, just about everyone responds with the same "Wow, that's _so_ true" when they do. So why try to reimagine something that is universal?

It's easy to go round and round with literary theory, and most of the time, I'm delighted to do so, but WS, for me, as always been the single simple truth in literature: it's universal, and there's nothing really else to it.
posted by Damn That Television at 1:25 PM on January 16, 2009


I agree that Shakespeare's themes are universal, but to strip them of their sociohistorical context leaves the plays spare and enfeebled (as much as a Shakespeare play could be called such). For instance, the fact that Lear appears during the finale year of an aging Queen Elizabeth's reign, a female monarch who never married or produced an heir, can't be overstated. The Tempest is far more interesting when understood as a fairytale of colonial exploration, and Caliban's enslavement in particular is very much entrenched in Elizabethan conflicts of humanism and slavery.

Again, I agree that Shakespeare is an ultimate beacon for the history English literature, and the fact that we can place his plays in South Beach and imperialist Russia testifies to his immense imagination and versatility. But I think literary critics like the New Historians are right to point out that part of that his universality hinges on the fact that these human emotions of greed, love, ambition, etc, are indeed grounded in vivid historical contexts, and we see iterations of the same crises over and over again with each passing generation. To assume Shakespeare is somehow above Elizabethan/Jacobean history denies the plays their astute political and cultural observations.
posted by zoomorphic at 1:44 PM on January 16, 2009


What's a reimagining? Peter Brook's productions of Shakespeare weren't reimaginings at all; he was just looking at the scripts and attempting to direct them as clearly and succinctly as possible, instead of beginning from the stereotypical performances people associate with Shakespeare.

90% of the time that I see a production of something written before 1900, I find it frought with stereotype. We don't much a lot about how Shakespeare's plays were performed in his time, and most of what we do know isn't really very helpful. At the end of the day, you still have five acts to perform, and you need to find a way to navigate your way through them. The idea that the right way is already known is just wrong.

On the other hand, there are certainly directors who think that they're being very clever and really haven't even given the text a basic reading. I recently went to a production of a Shakespeare play. The director talked at length in the program about how innovative he was, and how he was reigniting the script. What I saw on stage wasn't traditional or innovative. It was just boring. Watching these actors mumble their way through their lines, it was so clear to me that they'd just spent a month starving for some real direction. What they had instead was a director who had no respect for the text, and thus no desire to engage with it.
posted by roll truck roll at 1:48 PM on January 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


You want good new scripts? You have to support living playwrights, and really support them, by producing their plays and paying them.

Oh, I agree with you on this 100%. I just also know from personal experience that there are a number of people who actually ARE good playwrights, and then there are a number of people who only THINK they are good playwrights. And those numbers do not necessarily match.

The trick is, not everyone can AGREE on where exactly to draw the smaller circle in that particular Venn diagram. There are plays I've loved, have thought were brilliant, and that we went ahead and produced -- but it only had modest success, because of any number of x-factors (casting was off, one reviewer had a hangnail and wrote a grumpy review and everyone else avoided it after that, the theater flooded, etc.), and it never caught on with publishers and so died a quick death. There are other plays that were absolutely screamingly bad, but a different company loved that same play and produced it. It's not so much a clear and shining line between "good play" and "bad play" as it is a shifting zone, and lots of theater companies who are desperate for money and need something to get some quick cash are therefore spooked into trying to produce something that is at least agreed-upon by more people to be "good" than less, and so that's why you get a lot of Shakespeare, O'Neill, revivals of Oklahoma, etc.

The companies who can afford to give living playwrights a chance certainly should, I agree. And there are many who do. Most companies can only afford to do so infrequently, and at times just plain need to produce a show that will be guaranteed to at least break even.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 2:17 PM on January 16, 2009


Frederick Crews did a similar number on Harold Bloom a few years ago in Postmodern Pooh, a collection of fictional scholarly papers on Winnie the Pooh. The whole book is worth reading (there are funny parodies of Stanley Fish, Stephen Greenblatt, et al) but the Bloom chapter is a highlight.
posted by DaDaDaDave at 2:36 PM on January 16, 2009


The companies who can afford to give living playwrights a chance certainly should, I agree. And there are many who do. Most companies can only afford to do so infrequently, and at times just plain need to produce a show that will be guaranteed to at least break even.

The truly sad irony is that it's those smaller companies where some young playwrights can and should flourish and develop. Having a small company that's willing to take multiple gambles on your work is a luxury that not many writers get, but it's what they badly need in order to grow.

Mind you, I'm not blaming theatres in the least.
posted by roll truck roll at 2:42 PM on January 16, 2009


We came up the walk, between the slow, thought-brewing, beat-up old heads, liver-spotted, of choked old blood salts and wastes, hard and bone-bare domes, or swollen, the elevens of sinews up on collarless necks crazy with the assaults of Kansas heats and Wyoming freezes, and with the strains of kitchen toil, Far West digging, Cincinnati retailing, Omaha slaughtering, peddling, harvesting, laborious or pegging enterprises from whale-sized to infusorial that collect into the labor of the nation.

- The Adventures of Augie March
posted by wemayfreeze at 4:10 PM on January 16, 2009


My loathing for the bombast of Bloom dates from a lecture on Romeo and Juliet in which he categorically stated that R & J is THE Greatest Love Story ever written because the characters had the most pure love imaginable. And I thought, "God how I pity your wife." For this intellectual giant to have mistaken the lust between a pair of teenagers for THE Greatest Love imaginable says a lot about his capacity to understand normal human interactions.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 6:37 PM on January 16, 2009 [5 favorites]


My loathing for the bombast of Bloom dates from a lecture on Romeo and Juliet in which he categorically stated that R & J is THE Greatest Love Story ever written because the characters had the most pure love imaginable. And I thought, "God how I pity your wife." For this intellectual giant to have mistaken the lust between a pair of teenagers for THE Greatest Love imaginable says a lot about his capacity to understand normal human interactions.

One of the most memorable productions of ROMEO AND JULIET I ever saw was, on the face of it, pretty ordinary -- a bare-bones, free-theater-in-the-park production that come by the score in summer here in New York.

But -- this was the one and only production of Shakespeare that I've ever seen the actress playing Juliet play her as a teenager. It actually was a little mannered and stereotypical in places -- but stereotypically teen, like someone you'd expect to be decorating her homework with Hello Kitty doodles and typing in chatspeak and rolling her eyes and saying "omigod, Mom, stop talking about me!"

And because of that, it was a constant reminder that, "holy crap, that's right. They're only fourteen." And it made for a really memorable production.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 2:01 PM on January 18, 2009


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