“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 20, 2010

Literary Links: Australia Elects Its George Bush?

So, tomorrow Australians go to the polls with a set of underwhelming choices, which include a) the most right-wing Labor leader ever, b) the most right-wing Liberal leader ever, and c) a reformist third-party with no discernable ideology except for a loosely connected set of ‘left-wing’ social issues. While I support virtually all of the Greens social policies, I worry about the fact that they emphasise social issues rather than economic ones, and their practical detachment from the historical engine of left-wing reform (you know, unions, workers rights, the like, uh, proletariat and whatnot) makes me worry that they are a party who ultimately appeals only to the educated bourgeoisie (i.e. to people like me), which is worrisome to say the least. I remain convinced that being on the left-wing requires economic critique – particularly deep suspicion of the free market and economic rationalism – and, on that basis, aside from the SA, I don’t think that there are even any left-wing parties in this election.

Nonetheless, Tony Abbot is terrifying, and anyone who thinks there is no practical difference between Labor and the Liberals is absolutely kidding themselves. I fear tomorrow may be a variation on the U.S. election in 2000, and Abbot will be every bit as bad for Australia as Bush was in the U.S. But this is all theoretical from my end: I'm not an Australian citizen (but I hope to be someday!), so I can't vote.

So with that depressing thought in mind, here are few links to some literary stories from the week.

• Ted Genoways made headlines with his (in my opinion, awful) essay called ‘The Death of Fiction?’ earlier this year. But this week, details have emerged about his alleged financial mismanagement of the Virgina Quarterly Review. Questions have also been raised about his managerial practices, which purportedly have resulted in several employee complaints and have even been indirectly linked to the suicide of a former staff member. Yikes. On another note, it appears that dude is making $170,000 a year in his position as editor, which, if true, is insulting given that the journal that only has a circulation of 7,000.

Frank Kermode has died. He was a hugely influential literary critic, who strattled the divide between the New Criticism and Post-structuralism. He was also one of the last remaining visible public intellectuals in literary studies as well. So, it’s an end-of-an-era kind of a thing.

Meanland argues that aspiring writers have an obligation to buy literary journals. While this exhortation is a bit strong for my taste, it’s hard to argue with the point.

Jonathan Franzen does a video for his book, Freedom, in which he argues against author videos for books, which is unsurprising coming from a guy who would agree to be on Oprah’s Book Club and then complain about being on Oprah’s Book Club. Have a look below:

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