An Unproductive Productiveness
March 20, 2023 5:13 PM   Subscribe

It may well be that literature that depends on the adoption of such a godlike attitude is better laid to rest in our age of Ópera Prima. Our era’s preference for the debut novel is also a preference for the autofictional, for a rejection of universality in favor of particularity, of identity defined as difference. Still, I sometimes long for writing courageous—or hubristic or long-lived—enough to dare to say something about the whole of the human condition: something that is almost certainly wrong, or at least incomplete, but that is nevertheless worth saying. from Subterranean Treasures by Nicolás Medina Mora [The Nation; ungated]
posted by chavenet (6 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
This is definitely a take. I'm not sure I agree with it, but it definitely made me curious to pick up these books, and I've never had much interest in Cormac McCarthy before, so good work, Mora.
posted by potrzebie at 11:24 PM on March 20 [3 favorites]

Oh god you should have put a McCarthy warning on it. 🤢That is a man who has less than nothing to say to me.
posted by dame at 4:04 AM on March 21 [3 favorites]

Now that is what I call a review in the grand style. Never thought I would read Cormack McCarthy, but this has me somewhat intrigued. Thanks.
posted by blue shadows at 10:25 PM on March 21 [2 favorites]

This fits neatly into a genre of reviews I enjoy reading, long, well-argued celebrations of books, filled with interesting ideas and clever turns of phrase, which nevertheless leave me with no desire to read the work under discussion. I’m glad he liked these books, but they sound like not my kind of thing, and I’m happy to not think about them more.

I think people underestimate the value of book reviews in giving readers an idea of what to avoid. There are, functionally speaking, an infinite amount of books out there. Every single day more books are published than any single human will read in their lifetime. Book critics write scouting reports from the hinterlands to send back to the metropolis, so that readers will know where to go, and what they’ll find there. I think Nicolás Medina Mora’s review is an excellent guide to McCarthy’s latest, though it doesn’t tempt me to put down the Irmtraud Morgner novel I just started, or put either Stella Maris or The Passenger on my to-read pile.
posted by Kattullus at 6:07 AM on March 22 [2 favorites]

I have never successfully read a McCarthy. I started Blood Meridian and it was obviously good in some way, but I found the vision too horrible. Maybe I would be able to enjoy it at the right moment, not sure. The new novels sound very good idk.

I like both early and late Philip Roth (middle as well).

As to the real argument of the piece, I am completely checked out of the literary fiction scene so I can't really weigh its claims. Anything critical has a good chance of sounding kind of right to me just because of my general annoyance with the whole thing.
posted by grobstein at 11:59 AM on March 22 [1 favorite]

See I just can't resist this kind of sniping (the selections below are separated by a decent interval in the essay but I feel unmistakable in their point):
Consider, for example, Laura Miller’s conclusion in her review in Slate: "McCarthy’s fiction…sometimes threatens to become a parody of itself." ... [S]ome literary critics apparently prefer ghostwritten celebrity memoirs—Prince Harry’s book Spare, declared the headline of a recent column by Miller, “is just good literature.”
posted by grobstein at 12:05 PM on March 22 [1 favorite]

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