Literature and Form is a series of four lectures by Oxford literature academic Dr. Catherine Brown. The lectures are on the themes of unreliable narrators, chapters, multiple plotting and what comparative literature is. You can listen to it as a podcast or through iTunes U. In this lecture series Brown primarily looks at some central structures of the novel as well as examining what the study of literature entails. Brown weaves in examples from world literature, especially English and Russian literature of the 18th, 19th and 20th Centuries.
"One can almost hear the anticipatory echoes of something like Yelp in the context of José Ortega y Gasset’s The Revolt of the Masses (1930). The multitude, he wrote, once “scattered about the world in small groups,” now appears “as an agglomeration.” It has “suddenly become visible, installing itself in the preferential positions in society. Before, if it existed, it passed unnoticed, occupying the background of the social stage; now it has advanced to the footlights and is the principal character.” The disgruntled diner, now able to make or break a restaurant through sheer collective will. Against this leveling of critical power, the old guard fulminates. Ruth Reichl, the former editor of Gourmet, recently harrumphed that “anybody who believes Yelp is an idiot. Most people on Yelp have no idea what they’re talking about.”"—Star Wars, by Tom Vanderbilt, in The Wilson Quarterly [more inside]
How the Real Housewives Have Made America Better, by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. "Watching these housewives scramble to suture up their tattered personas is both anger-inducing and heart-wrenching. That's what literature is supposed to do: make us angry at certain behavior; then when we recognize ourselves in the characters we so harshly judge, to change our behavior."
His deluded music of the eternal present will sadly have little future.
Daniel Asia writes an inflammatory screed taking on the prolific composer Elliott Carter
Daniel Asia writes an inflammatory screed taking on the prolific composer Elliott Carter
"The internationalized art world relies on a unique language. Its purest articulation is found in the digital press release. This language has everything to do with English, but it is emphatically not English. It is largely an export of the Anglophone world and can thank the global dominance of English for its current reach. But what really matters for this language—what ultimately makes it a language—is the pointed distance from English that it has always cultivated. " - Triple Canopy magazine on why do artists' statments and press releases sound so utterly odd and confusing.
Mad Men Season 6 (and simultaneous saturation coverage) begins again tonight. As the show winds down, along with the decade that defined it, the 1960s, critics are wondering "What's the best ending for the best series on TV? Can it survive the onset of the 1970s?"
‘I am a phantasmagoric maximalist. I like things to be overwhelmingly strange and capacitous. I want what I write to live; it isn’t about something, it is something’— Michael Cisco. [more inside]
What makes the music critics at Collapse Board more interesting than the ones at Pitchfork or Rolling Stone or the AV Club? Well, for one thing, they have more fun: witness The Audacity of Barry Manilow, or their take on Kimbra's "Vows", written as a response to the outrage they received after a negative Gotye review. When they love something, they love it with relish – they think Micachu understands 2012 like no other musician, argue that Nirvana was the biggest thing since the Beatles, and think Lana Del Rey is more interesting than her lips. And when they dislike something, they make no qualms about disliking it – they rip into Titus Andronicus something good, describe a Matt & Kim album as "an excellent litmus test for weeding out fluff-eating imbeciles", and express more ambivalent opinions about My Bloody Valentine and The Mountain Goats. They also, predictably write frequent critiques of music criticism.
We might not get laughed out of the room, but the question is: would we want to be stuck in it with some guy who would ask: Since we already have Aristophanes, who needs Kurtzman? Since we have Erasmus of Rotterdam, why would we want Steve Martin? With Wagner still available, who cares about the Firehouse Five? Furthermore, would we let that guy organize the party music?Eddie Campbell on fallacies of comics criticism.
What appears at first to be taking a more stringent view is in fact applying irrelevant criteria. It dismantles the idea of a comic and leaves the parts hopelessly undone.
"You might not have the talent you need. Success may no longer be available to you. Time will bury everything you care about."
Movie critic Matthew Dessem (previously) considers Edward Ford to be the greatest unproduced screenplay in Hollywood.
"The best way to honor [Nat Turner, Frederick Douglass, and Harriet Tubman] is not with tasteful, funereal reverence but some real attempt to measure the dimensions of the stretch of history they occupied.
In a lengthy back-and-forth discussion about Django Unchained, critics Steven Boone and Odie Henderson discuss the subtleties of Tarantino's racial commentary (as well, as, of course, the more blatant commentaries), their thoughts on Spike Lee's criticism of the film, and Tarantino's vast and nuanced range of inspirations. Elsewhere, Tarantino responds to a critic who called a plot point in Django "harebrained", and what ensues offers an interesting insight into how Tarantino thinks about his characters.
10 PRINT CHR$(205.5+RND(1)); : GOTO 10 (a collaborative book by Nick Montfort, Patsy Baudoin, John Bell, Ian Bogost (previously, previously, previously), Jeremy Douglass, Mark C. Marino, Michael Mateas (of Facade), Casey Reas, Mark Sample and Noah Vawter) uses a single line of code as a basis for pontificating on creative computing and the impact of software in popular culture. 10 PRINT's content is available as a PDF (50 MB). Pictures via Casey Reas' Flickr.
Let’s play Žižuku! Vaguely similar in theory to the Postmodern Text Generator, but practiced individually, rather than Markov-chain-generated text. The creator, Julian Baggini, describes Žižuku thus: "The rules are simple: pick on any widely received idea and find the most clever-sounding way to invert it, so as to create a paradox, or at least the semblance of one." [more inside]
Comics critics groupblog The Hooded Utilitarian ("a pundit in every panopticon") turned five in September and to celebrate ran a month long festival of hate, "in which contributors will write about what they believe is the worst comic ever — or the most overrated, or the one they personally hate the most, as the case may be." [more inside]
Someone named Casey Couture wants to tell youall about his 50 favorite movies. Perhaps you've heard of some of them?
A Short History Of Book Reviewing's Long Decline: 'By the time of the first quote “book-review,” criticism had been in circulation for centuries—long enough for writers to know how it can sting. Understandably, then, the critic’s skepticism of an artist's genius has invariably existed alongside the artist's doubt over the critic's judgment.' [more inside]
Paul Thomas 'The Master' Anderson or Paul WS 'Resident Evil 5' Anderson... who's the best? There's only one way to find out... ask Armond White
Diamanda Hagan is an obsessive Dr. Who fan in scary makeup. She posts extensive, entertaining, and exhaustively nerdy rants on some of the worst episodes of Nu Who. Behold! The Beast Below, Voyage Of The Damned, Victory Of The Daleks, Fear Her, The Next Doctor, Planet Of The Dead, The Doctor's Daughter, and The End Of Time (The Whole Damn Thing) (NSFW language)
Some early reviews of Windows 8: "The worst computing experience I've ever had." "A technological, ideological and functional failure." "I’ve felt almost totally at sea — confused, paralyzed, angry, and ultimately resigned to the pain of having to alter the way I do most of my work." (previously) [more inside]
"In Breaking Bad the villain is not sociology, but a human being; what destroys the mortals is not a system, but a fellow mortal."
Bullying & Goodreads: "Little more than a week ago, a website aimed at naming and shaming so-called Goodreads [A kind of facebook for bibliophiles.] ‘bullies’ suddenly appeared online – called, appropriately enough, Stop the GR Bullies. Run by four concerned ‘readers and bloggers’ writing anonymously under the handles Athena, Peter Pan, Johnny Be Good and Stitch, the site thus far seems bent on punishing the creators of snide, snarky and negative book reviews by posting their handles, real names, locations and photos in one place, together with a warning about their supposed ‘level of toxicity’ and some (ironically) snide, snarky and negative commentary about them as people. There’s a lot here to unpack, but before I get started on why this is a horrifically bad idea, let’s start with some basic context."
Essayist and cartoonist Tim Kreider is no stranger to film criticism ( previously) but his thoughtful, surprising, detailed analysis of Lynch's The Straight Story and Spielberg/Kubrick's AI deserve special attention.
The literary product—by which I mean assembly-line writing, in tune with sales results and committee-thinking, rather than the idiosyncratic creation of the individual genius— today is manipulated, propagandized, and hyped, and, as a result, unattractive to mass audiences, indifferent to fundamental issues of class and politics, and pretty much in its death throes. This holds true above all in America, where conglomerate publishing has reached its most advanced state, and different genres of writing are the brainchildren of marketing geniuses and corporate analysts, creating a worthless product as far as literary values are concerned. Why is this phenomenon not being scrutinized to the degree it needs to be? Why is the lack of quality not more transparent?
Julian Cope's "Album of the Month" series brims with personal, passionate, and often mind-expanding writing about records like James Brown's The Payback, Nico's The Marble Index, and a bunch of stuff you've never heard of. (previously) [more inside]
In 1929, John Galsworthy won a Guardian poll as the novelist most likely to still be read in 2029. Three years later, he won the Nobel Prize, and the prices of his first editions skyrocketed. His reputation has since been on a 80-year wane that shows no signs of abating. The New Yorker asks Why is Literary Fame So Unpredictable? And who will they be teaching in literature class a century from now?
The art house review/criticism series Brows Held High decided to tackle Nicolas Roeg/David Bowie's 1976 The Man Who Fell To Earth by reviewing it as a karaoke medley of Bowie's greatest hits.
Fourteen Ways To Spot A Bad Critic : Tarol Hunt, illustrator of the webcomic Goblins: Life Through Their Eyes [Previously], weighs in on hate mail sent by his readers.
Evening the Odds: Is there a politics of inequality? (Nicholas Lemann in New Yorker)
Reading Markson Reading: ‘Exploring the mind, method and masterpieces of David Markson through the marginalia found on the pages of the books in his personal library.’ (previously: 1, 2)
"Poetic excess takes the devil’s side, in the Anglo-American mind, of the Artificiality/Authenticity binary, and thus is highly suspect."
Cultural critic Mark Dery discusses his new essay collection. Interview by R. U. Sirius. Dery has previously written on the cultural influence of Edward Gorey, the effects of social networking, the popularity of cephalopods, dead malls, and Surrealism and the Visual Unconscious.
"Bringing up the women’s question — I mean the women’s fiction question — is not unlike mentioning the national debt at a dinner party."
If “The Marriage Plot,” by Jeffrey Eugenides, had been written by a woman yet still had the same title and wedding ring on its cover, would it have received a great deal of serious literary attention? Or would this novel (which I loved) have been relegated to “Women’s Fiction,” that close-quartered lower shelf where books emphasizing relationships and the interior lives of women are often relegated? Certainly “The Marriage Plot,” Eugenides’s first novel since his Pulitzer Prize-winning “Middlesex,” was poised to receive tremendous literary interest regardless of subject matter, but the presence of a female protagonist, the gracefulness, the sometimes nostalgic tone and the relationship-heavy nature of the book only highlight the fact that many first-rate books by women and about women’s lives never find a way to escape “Women’s Fiction” and make the leap onto the upper shelf where certain books, most of them written by men (and, yes, some women — more about them later), are prominently displayed and admired.So begins The Second Shelf: On the Rules of Literary Fiction for Men and Women, an essay in the New York Times by novelist Meg Wolitzer. She was interviewed about her essay in the NYT Book Review podcast (mp3 link, interview starts at about 18:30). Wolitzer references the classic 1998 essay by Francine Prose, Scent of a woman's ink: Are women writers really inferior?, and further back in time you find Virginia Woolf's A Room of One's Own, which, as literary critic Ruth Franklin notes, still sounds fresh today.
"The fantasy of the sociopath, then, represents an attempt to escape from the inescapably social nature of human experience." Adam Kotsko on Why We Love Sociopaths.
... because reality won’t cut it, isn’t outrageous enough, we must sex up the story for it to get any traction, and it must get traction, it MUST.
Film Crit Hulk presents us with 22 SHORT THOUGHTS ABOUT MARGARET, the film which Kenneth Longeran (You Can Count On Me) directed in 2005 and which was finally released last year.
Loudly and with much smashing, FilmCritHulk has become a major presence in the world of online film criticism with his semiotical essays on storytelling, cinematic principles, and media theory. Starting first on his personal blog, Hulk now writes for Badass Digest [previously] (the lifestyle blog corner of the Alamo Drafthouse empire [previously, previously]) [more inside]
In the last decade, no organ of music criticism has wielded as much influence as Pitchfork. It is the only publication, online or print, that can have a decisive effect on a musician or band’s career.... [W]hatever attracts people to Pitchfork, it isn’t the writing. Even writers who admire the site’s reviews almost always feel obliged to describe the prose as “uneven,” and that’s charitable. Pitchfork has a very specific scoring system that grades albums on a scale from 0.0 to 10.0, and that accounts for some of the site’s appeal, but it can’t just be the scores.... How has Pitchfork succeeded where so many other websites and magazines have not? And why is that success depressing? A lengthy history and review of Pitchfork [Media], from an inexpensive online alternative to a music zine, to "indie" music kingmaker, and thoughts on pop music (criticism). [more inside]
Yesterday, the Village Voice fired J. Hoberman, long-time champion of independent and experimental film (and its senior film critic of 24 years). Hoberman promises that there's a blog in his future. The Voice has an archive of his writing for them since 1998. Here are his Top 10 lists for the years 1977 to 2006, and here they are for 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, and 2011. Here is a compilation of his advice for aspiring film critics. A critic who came of age in an era when the lines between "film critic" and "film scholar" were blurrier, Hoberman has also written books about American movies and the Cold War and the forgotton history of Yiddish cinema. Here are some interviews with him about his work.
A short look at the role of chance, chaos and coincidence in three films: Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, Run Lola Run, and Three Colors: Red.
Christopher Plummer, playing a man who comes out of the closet in his 70s, might have won Best Supporting Performance, but at least four people voted for a dog. The results for the crazy free-for-all that is the Indiewire Annual Survey, which polled 168 critics this year, came out today. The Tree of Life swept Best Film and Best Director, but the choices that only got a handful of votes are often the most interesting, including three different cast members from The Three Musketeers for Best Supporting and a vote for Transformers: Dark of the Moon for Best Film. You can see the complete results and links to all of the critics ballots here. [more inside]
Take up the White Man's burden— And reap his old reward: The blame of those ye better, The hate of those ye guard—
Indian author Pankaj Mishra writes a brutal takedown of Niall Ferguson's latest book, Civilisation: The West and the Rest in the London Review of Books. Ferguson responds to the critical book review with a lawsuit. [more inside]
Danger Room, the tech magazine Wired's section for covering military and security matters, have compiled The Worst War Movies Ever, From Delta Force to The Empire Strikes Back for your Friday list viewing pleasure.
"The rigorous division of websites into narrow interests, the attempts of Amazon and Netflix to steer your next purchase based on what you’ve already bought, the ability of Web users to never encounter anything outside of their established political or cultural preferences, and the way technology enables advertisers to identify each potential market and direct advertising to it, all represent the triumph of cultural segregation that is the negation of democracy. It’s the reassurance of never having to face anyone different from ourselves." – Charles Taylor, The Problem with Film Criticism