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Narrative is the metaphor of the moment

One should add that he was an extraordinarily gifted con man, persuading the most discerning intellectuals that he had credentials he did not possess and a heroic personal history, rather than a scandalous one, while he worked his charm on generations of students. Just who was Paul de Man?
posted by shivohum on Apr 7, 2014 - 5 comments

 

"Stories about charming scoundrels have a built-in appeal"

[Paul] De Man may have been a scoundrel who found a career teaching a certain method of reading, but that method of reading does not turn people into scoundrels. Probably ninety-nine per cent of the people who studied with de Man wouldn’t run a red light—forget about altering a transcript or voluntarily collaborating with Nazis. If there is an ethical takeaway from what de Man taught, it would be self-doubt.
In The New Yorker Louis Menand attempts to find common ground between Paul De Man's methods of literary criticism and his sordid life in a long review of Evelyn Barish's The Double Life of Paul de Man. The biography has been criticized by Peter Brooks, De Man's former student, and was reviewed unfavorably by Susan Rubin Suleiman in The New York Times.
posted by Kattullus on Mar 18, 2014 - 21 comments

(I Hate This Book) No You Don't ... You Love It!

"I purchased and read [Dan Brown's] Inferno, which was inscrutable and interminable, and as I read I scribbled in its margins. When I finished, my friend David Rees, the artisanal pencil sharpener, asked if he could borrow it. He added his thoughts. It was fun to see someone else’s words next to mine. I wrote in black pen, in cursive. David wrote in red pencil, in block letters. I was semi-serious. David swore and told a lot of jokes. Usually we agreed, but occasionally we disagreed. Here are some of the highlights." [via The Millions]
posted by chavenet on Jan 13, 2014 - 105 comments

Finance as a novelistic plot engine

An unpublished interview with novelist Sol Yurick by BLDGBLOG's Geoff Manaugh. "[S]uppose we think of The Iliad as one big trade war. Troy, as you know, sat on the route into the Black Sea, which means it commanded the whole hinterland where people like the Greeks and the Trojans did trading. The Trojan War was a trade war." (previously on the 2013 passing of the writer of The Warriors) [more inside]
posted by spamandkimchi on Jan 3, 2014 - 15 comments

A Barkeeper Entering the Kingdom of Heaven

Mark Twain famously derided Jane Austen (who would have had her 238th birthday yesterday), saying (among other things) that he could not read her prose even if paid a salary to do so. But what did Twain really think about Austen's work?
posted by Jonathan Livengood on Dec 17, 2013 - 63 comments

"The truth is that I intend never to write a negative book review again"

The very fact that reading and writing are in jeopardy, or simply evolving, means that to try to put the brakes of old criteria on a changing situation is going to be either obstructive or boring. In our critical age of almost manic invention, the most effective criticism of what, in the critic’s eyes, is a bad book would be to simply ignore it, while nudging better books toward the fulfillment of what the critic understands to be each book’s particular creative aim.
Lee Siegel buries the hatchet-job.
posted by RogerB on Sep 26, 2013 - 50 comments

"an inadequate title for this ragbag of lectures and classes"

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.
posted by Kattullus on May 15, 2013 - 6 comments

Classic Sci-Fi and Fantasy, the literature of Reactionism

In 1978, Micheal Moorcock wrote an essay Starship Stormtroopers published in Anarchist Review which said that most popular science-fiction and fantasy is deeply Reactionary (authoritarian conservative right-wing themes), he mocked the notion of sci-fi being a "literature of ideas". But there is some "socialist" science fiction, China Miéville put together a list of Fifty Fantasy & Science Fiction Works That Socialists Should Read. [more inside]
posted by stbalbach on Nov 18, 2012 - 133 comments

I have read them all hoping against hope to hear the authentic call

The Baffler has returned. Again. [more inside]
posted by zenon on May 10, 2012 - 8 comments

"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.
posted by Kattullus on Apr 4, 2012 - 105 comments

this petty-bourgeois uptightness, this terror of not being in control, this schoolboy desire to boast and to shock

The 2010 Booker longlist is out, and it seems that most of the buzz in the UK is about who's not on the list. The Guardian article "Amis-free Booker prize longlist promises to 'entertain and provoke'" introducing the list of 13 nominees actually devotes its headline, subhead, and most of the first four paragraphs to the subject of who's missing in action: Amis, McEwan, Rushdie. Elsewhere in the Guardian Books section, research professor Gabriel Josipovici pulls no punches in including these (former?) darlings of the glitterati in his assertion that Feted British authors are limited, arrogant and self-satisfied, compares them to "prep-school boys showing off," calls them "virtually indistinguishable from one another in scope and ambition," and muses that the fact that they have won so many awards is "a mystery." [more inside]
posted by taz on Jul 29, 2010 - 50 comments

Why Are People Always Having Sex With Dragons In Science Fiction?

[NSFW] Why Are People Always Having Sex With Dragons In Science Fiction?
posted by jason's_planet on Dec 26, 2009 - 158 comments

The crying of x^2 + xy + y^2 = 49

"Pynchon, postmodern author, is commonly said to have a non-linear narrative style. No one seems to have taken seriously the possibility, to be explored in this essay, that his narrative style might in fact be quadratic." Number theorist Michael Harris on Pynchon and conic sections.
posted by escabeche on Oct 25, 2009 - 60 comments

Eleanor Cameron vs. Roald Dahl

From October 1972 to October 1973 a controversy over Roald Dahl's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory simmered in the pages of The Horn Book. It began with an article, "McLuhan, Youth, and Literature", by Eleanor Cameron, author of the Mushroom Planet series for children and of The Green and Burning Tree: On the Writing and Enjoyment of Children's Books. Spread out over the October, December, and February issues, it tied the ideas of Marshall McLuhan (The Medium is the Massage) to the confection of Charlie, calling it "one of the most tasteless books ever written for children":
"The more I think about Charlie and the character of Willy Wonka and his factory, the more I am reminded of McLuhan’s coolness, the basic nature of his observations, and the kinds of things that excite him. Certainly there are several interesting parallels between the point of view of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and McLuhan’s 'theatrical view of experience as a production or stunt,' as well as his enthusiastic conviction that every ill of mankind can easily be solved by subservience to the senses."
What followed was a knock-down, drag-out, letter-writing brouhaha, refereed by Horn Book editor Paul Heins, with librarians, parents, teachers, Ursula K. Le Guin, and Roald Dahl himself joining in, and it was one of the main causes of the book's revision that year. [more inside]
posted by ocherdraco on Oct 15, 2009 - 68 comments

The influence of Edmund Spenser across two and a half centuries as traced through 25000 different texts

Spenser and the Tradition: English Poetry 1579-1830 is a mammoth database of English poetry and other writings that traces the influence of the great 16th-Century poet Edmund Spenser on English poetry across 250 years. There are roughly 25000 different texts on the site, over 6000 poems from famous classics to obscure ephemera, and further thousands of biographies and commentaries. Since it would take years to read all the material I am happy to say that there is a guide to navigating the database, an overview of its contents, a statistical summary and an essay on tradition and innovation. The immense database, which started life as a pile of index cards, was compiled largely by Virginia Tech Professor David Hill Radcliffe over the course of 17 years.
posted by Kattullus on May 27, 2009 - 11 comments

Fetish of ambition

"... many critics and editors, especially male ones, make a fetish of "ambition," by which they mean the contemporary equivalent of novels about men in boats ("Moby-Dick," "Huckleberry Finn") rather than women in houses ("House of Mirth"), and that as a result big novels by male writers get treated as major events while slender but equally accomplished books by women tend to make a smaller splash." [more inside]
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome on Feb 24, 2009 - 95 comments

Bookmarks Magazine: book reviews periodical

Bookmarks Magazine has long been one of my favorite book review periodicals because it aggregates and summarizes reviews from many sources, for example: The Children of Húrin. Recently they have opened up the back-issue archive to non-subscribers. [more inside]
posted by stbalbach on Apr 20, 2008 - 6 comments

My Pet Goat: instant classic

"I was stunned by its lyrical beauty and easy cadence. The tempo, the choice of words, and the layout on each page captured my imagination so much that it took me about seven minutes to recover my bearings." Amazon users review My Pet Goat. (via Sadly, No!)
posted by XQUZYPHYR on Jul 17, 2004 - 20 comments

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