“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, October 8, 2010

Son of Literary Links

I've already posted links for this week, but yesterday I kept coming across interesting articles I've missed. Stupid world, stop producing interesting things! I have real work to do. OK, here they are.
  • Stupid article of the week. Hannah Duguid 'takes on' conceptual writing, which results in exceptional banalities like this: 'What separates these writers from conceptual writers is imagination. Conceptual writing is only imaginative as an idea, though its appeal to the intellect can leave one feeling cold.' Ah, the 'imagination'! Ooh, the 'cold intellect'! Any other cultural cliches you'd like to recycle while yer at it, luv? That being said, the stuff she's talking about here doesn't sound great, but that's because the ideas themselves are neither particularly new or interesting; the 'heart' doesn't factor into it.
  • Slate has a really interesting article on the use of homemade scanners to find valuable used books in op shops. This is actually a great lesson in the book as commodity...
  • Attributor has released a study that shows a massive increase in book piracy. Of course, they would say that, since they provide a paid service to publishers, in which they police they interwebs for copyright violators. My own research (which is more anecdotal) suggests that book piracy is happening faster and more frequently, mostly due to the increasing number of ebook versions for new releases. Still, it's harder to find things then you might think.
  • The LRB review of Franzen's Freedom is in; in summary, James Lever's response is 'meh' (although for interesting reasons). N.B. this review more or less spoils the ending, if you're like into plot and whatnot. After an early romp with the critics, it seems like the backlash on Freedom is building, with other fair to middling (to negative) reviews in The New Republic and The Complete Review. Although I find the continuing media circus around Franzen fascinating (in a car wreck/reality TV kind of way), I'll admit that I haven't read Freedom yet, and have no immediate plans to. My theory is this: if the book is really that great, it will still be great in six months or a year--so there's no rush.
  • There's also a swipe at Franzen in (weirdly) Greil Marcus's review of the new Phillip Roth:
'Reading Jonathan Franzen's Freedom, one can be overwhelmed by the contempt of a writer for his characters: by his proof in almost every sentence, as one person after another is introduced to the reader as a small figure of vanity, smugness, stupidity, venality, or pettiness, of his superiority to his characters.'

    • Oh, and Mario Vargos Llosa has won that Nobel Prize for Literature thing. Question: do you think this prize would have gone to a South American author without the Roberto Bolano effect?

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