“Such are the perfections of fiction...Everything it teaches is useless insofar as structuring your life: you can’t prop up anything with fiction. It, in fact, teaches you just that. That in order to attempt to employ its specific wisdom is a sign of madness...There is more profit in an hour’s talk with Billy Graham than in a reading of Joyce. Graham might conceivably make you sick, so that you might move, go somewhere to get well. But Joyce just sends you out into the street, where the world goes on, solid as a bus. If you met Joyce and said 'Help me,' he’d hand you a copy of Finnegans Wake. You could both cry.” – Gilbert Sorrentino, Imaginative Qualities of Actual Things

Friday, August 6, 2010

Literary Links: Hulk Smash Modern Novel

• Here’s another puff piece on the ‘crisis’ of the modern novel, in the form of a dialogue between Harry Mount and Michael Deacon called ‘What’s Gone Wrong with the Modern Novel?’; it begins well enough with Mount arguing that ‘if you took a random selection of books published in August 1810, most of them would be pretty dull, too. The situation isn't terminal: there's nothing in modern culture that stops a new Waugh or Proust publishing a masterpiece tomorrow,’ but then devolves into a discussion of how TV writing is so much better than novel writing. I agree that TV writing is totally awesome right now, but what the hell does that have to do with the novel? Also, have these guys ever read a book not published by a major multinational corporation? If I were Bruce Banner, these kinds of articles would totally make me turn into the Incredible Hulk.

• Newspapers seem to love statements of the obvious: here’s a piece on how current genre fiction is all like good and smart and stuff. Agreed. This has been the case for some time. Can we now please stop running articles on how ‘genre’ fiction and nonfiction are really, really good as if that’s news?

• There’s been a lot of chatter in Australia and the U.K. about how the agency model of bookselling (basically, the method that Amazon, Google and Apple use to sell ebooks) is almost certainly illegal under current trade law. Well, now the U.S. is getting in on the action and Amazon and Apple are being probed for price-fixing.

• Henry Rosenbloom of Scribe Publishing offers a few thoughts on the problems currently facing publishers in Australia. I particularly enjoyed the coy reference to an unnamed bookseller creating problems for Scribe; I’ll give you one guess as to who that is…

• Here’s a sneak peek at the forthcoming biography of J.D. Sallinger, which is over 800 pages long and is being co-written by David Shields. Wow, Shields and Sallinger together – those are two great reasons not to read this book. On a scale from nauseating to suicide-inducing, how awful is the press coverage of this going to be?

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