“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 11, 2010

Literary Links: Special Link Edition, Now with Extra Links!

  • Just say yes to NaNoWriMo.
  • Check out J. Safran Foer's new book Tree of Codes, which is a book made of die-cut pages that stack on top of each other and whatnot in a way that I can't explain so just look at the thing already. There's more good news: Foer didn't "write" the book, but rather cut up text from Bruno Schulz's The Street of Crocodiles, which means that this could well be the least annoying book that Foer has ever written.  Huzzah! [Added: there's an even better link to info on the book here.]
  • The LRB on old Tommy Bernhard. Yup, he's still great.
  • Tried and failed to buy an ebook in our lovely, little convict colony? Register yer frustration at Lost Book Sales.
  • It's been 150 years and poor Emma Bovary is still misunderstood. Oddly, it seems that Amanda Lohrey (author of the recent Reading Madame Bovary) falls prey to the exact same misreading of Emma (at least based on the interview she gave to the ABC Book Show): "Flaubert is very, very condescending towards [Emma], he says that she reads too many books from the public library, too many romances that corrupt her mind and her loyalty to her husband." Is she Misreading Madame Bovary? (N.B. I haven't finished Lohrey's book yet, so I'm probably totally wrong about this...)
  • The Guardian asks the following question: will there ever be a great European novel? Answer: Yes, which The Guardian would know if its staff writers ever read any books from that area just across the Channel over there...what's it called? Switzerfrance? Or something.


Anonymous said...

For all Bernhardians there's an absolute treat in store shortly: http://bit.ly/c7PaLa . You'll never look at the literary prize scene/racket the same way again!

Anonymous said...

Hi Emmett,
Safran Foer's book looks very interesting- but BS Johnson got there first with his novel "Albert Angelo" which had sections cut from the book so the reader could see ahead into the story. Saying that though, it looks like Foer has gone a few steps further.
I really like Foer- I just thinks he needs an editor who will tell him when to stop.


Emmett Stinson said...

Yeah, there are a lot of precursors for this; even the notion of editing a previous text to create a new one has lots of antecedents, e.g. 'A Humument' (http://humument.com), and Julio Cortazar's 'Hopscotch' with its sort of choose-your-own-adventure structure is a similar experiment, but I think we're no longer under the Modernist obligation to 'make it new', or, rather, I'm fine with the 'new' also having a good dose of the 'old' in it, as long as the work isn't amnesiac about its predecessors.

Foer, to me, is part of the current 'lost generation' of U.S. authors (along with Franzen and Moody etc.), who have talent but have also willingly compromised that talent in the name of a misplaced notion of populism (which is really an inverted elitism, based on the notion that the public is stupid and must be spoken down to or else they won't 'get' it); Wallace, to me, avoided this for the reason that he was willing to take a risk and really challenge his audience, but maybe this book suggests that Foer is rethinking the way he uses his particular celebrity.

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