“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 13, 2010

Literary Links

•  Miguel Syjuco, author of the excellent Ilustrado, officially has the BEST AUTHOR PAGE EVER. Set-up like a faux fan-shrine, the page has a pink background, dancing penguins, and LOL cats. It’s perfect. As I said in my review of Ilustrado, Syjuco is the only author I’ve ever read who has aptly recreated the comic miscellany of the web in novel form; this page proves it.

•  Alison Croggon has an interesting article up on the Wheeler Centre website discussing the tendency to discuss works of literature as if they are ‘about’ things, rather than things-in-and-of-themselves. I’ve just written something in a similar vein that should be published in the next few months. At a moment when more and more people seem to be trying to instrumentalize literature (which capitalism, of course, already does by making books commodities) for moral and political ends, I think it’s really important to emphasize that literature doesn’t really work that way, or at least doesn’t have to. Croggon also mentions Sontag’s famous essay ‘Against Interpretation’, which is a piece of writing that I think many people could stand to read (or re-read) right now.

•  On the topic of the Wheeler Centre, Daniel Wood offers a pretty strident critique of Melbourne’s new Centre for Books Writing and Ideas by comparing it to his experiences of Edinburgh, the first UNESCO city of Literature. I don’t think I agree with him on this; it seems to me the Wheeler Centre is trying to do something very different (a point he admits) by emphasizing the diversity of Melbourne’s publishing/bookstore/reading culture rather than focusing on literature as such, but his argument is nuanced, thoughtful and definitely worth a read.

•  Stupid Article of the Week: Anis Shivani lists his 15 most overrated contemporary writers. It’s not that I care much for the writers he lists (although I do like some of William Vollmann’s work), but the bitchy ‘hot or not’ framing of the article actually recreates the very kind of celebrity gossip approach to literary discourse that he’s attacking. What’s most worrisome about Shivani is his ideological motivation, which can be seen in his definition of ‘bad writing’: ‘Bad writing is characterized by obfuscation, showboating, narcissism, lack of a moral core, and style over substance. Good writing is exactly the opposite. Bad writing draws attention to the writer himself.’ Oh, God. Are we really returning to the F.R. Leavis mode of criticism? Get ready for more of this: moral criticism is the new spring trend in literature.

•  Finally, in case anyone missed it, here’s Crikey on the allegedly perilous health of Red Group Retail, the company that owns both Borders and Angus and Robertson in Australia.


michaelf said...

i wonder why australia got the anti-design cover for illustrado? would be interesting to have the notes for that..

Emmett Stinson said...

Yeah, it is interesting. I kind of wonder why they used four different covers at all. In a way, though, the Australian cover actually reflects the content better than any of the others.

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