“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

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Literary Links: Wherein Everything is Explained

  • So this basically explains everything.
  • Here's a nice, little heartwarming (which is better than heart-worming) story about indie publishing in Melbs. And I agree, we are totally awesome.
  • Are you a latecomer to the Roberto Bolano party? Fear not, for here is your syllabus. (You still have to do the reading yourself, though).
  • N+1, in their usual style, publish an article that's kind of half awesome and kind of half really, really scarily wrong in a disastrous way. There is some bemoaning of the anti-intellectualism of writers' events ('As soon as you hear behind the bookish chatter, “We’re all writers here, what’s to disagree about?” you know we’re sunk, intellectually.'), when, in reality, these are basically complicated marketing opportunities (Shhhh! Don't tell anyone!). Then there's some stuff I think is pretty dead on: 'The novel’s anxiety to have a ready-made public makes it less and less deserving of one. The novel needs to get over the 19th century.' Then, of course, we have the inevitable fall back into a nostalgiac humanism: 'The novel is unexcelled at one thing only: the creation of interiority, or inwardness. How does life look and sound from the inside, where no public observes it and not even a friend listens in?' Ugh. Is this really so, because it seems to me that Don Quixote and Tristram Shandy (as well as just about every good book ever written) do a lot more than that? Aren't there other trajectories for the novel, other possibilities that lie somewhere beyond the old (and typically mutually exclusive) claims of morality, psychology, inwardness, or social critique? I think so, but finding it requires that we kill off humanism, and--since naive Romantic notions of the novel's 'insight' into the human condition form so much of both literature's marketing strategy and cultural aura--I don't see it disappearing anytime soon.
    • Stupid Article of the Week: Don't you love it when Gen-X Yaleies (right, right--they are technically Elis, as every good denizen of crossword-puzzle land knows) from elite cultural institutions like The Paris Review say banal things (e.g. 'According to Stein, the two tricks for contemporary magazines are to publish work that even he would want to read, and to use social media to inform people of what they should be reading.') and then we're all meant to pretend that it's interesting? Me, too. I love that.

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