Category Archives: lit crit

Anthologies Are Kafka’s Spot in Publishing

JC Hallman is still blogging up a storm about his book over at the Tin House blog. (And, for about the 18th time, we've published an adapted version of his intro to the book that I think everyone should check out.)

Hallman has stopped poking the ribs of the academic community on the Tin House blog and is now discussing the nightmare that is trying to publish a profitable anthology.

The problem with The Story About the Story was multi-fold. When we write about reading, we want to cite things, to use examples—these become permissions issues, too. Furthermore, for an anthology like this to have any chance at succeeding, it needs to have the possibility of getting to foreign markets, at least the UK (a number of the writers in The Story About the Story are British—from Woolf and Wilde to De Botton and Dyer). This meant that each essay actually wound up requiring multiple permissions. The prize for most went to Edward Hirsch. The short selection from How to Read a Poem and Fall in Love With Poetry required two permissions for the text itself (US and UK), two permissions for the Plath poem it explicates, and a permission for a few lines from poet Miklós Radnóti.

Five permissions for one essay. The average permission for The Story About the Story was $150.00 Thirty-one essays in the book.

The budget was $3500.00.

Yeah, anthologies are tough. If you read the post, there's a (frankly) insane story where Hallman had to convince Random House UK that they actually did own the rights to an essay he was trying to reprint (which after Hallman finally convinced them they really did own tried to charge him $6,000 for).

Although, for all the trouble Hallman went through, I feel like it was worth it. I am pretty eager to see my copy of this book, mostly because I haven't read a lot of the criticism collected therein, but the pieces that I have read make me want to read the ones I haven't.

On That Creative Criticism School Thing . . .

At The Valve there's an interesting discussion of J.C. Hallman's essay on launching a school of creative criticism.

Among others, Zak Smith, of Gravity's Rainbow illustration fame, is there in the comments:

If you pick up “The Second Coming” read it and don’t like it, that’s fine. That is an acceptable response to a piece of literature.

If, then, you take a class, learn all about Yeats and meter and symbolism, and then re-read it and then suddenly claim to like it–that’s bad.

That’s posing. That’s like saying you didn’t used to like broccoli but then you took a biology class and a chemistry class and now you know what broccoli is made of and so you like to eat it.

A New Literary History of America

Interesting site here for A New Literary History of America, an 1100-page book composed of some 220 essays collected by Greil Marcus and Werner Sollors.

The idea is to take the term literary fairly broadly; thus, Gish Jen writes on The Catcher in the Rye, and Ann Marlowe writes on the autobiographies of Linda Lovelace, the woman best-known as the “star” of Deep Throat:

Ordeal, the third of four autobiographies of Deep Throat porn star Linda Boreman (Lovelace), isn’t interesting because it’s a good book, a tragic one, or even an arousing one. Published in 1980, it’s interesting as an artifact of early feminism, just like Deep Throat in 1972, and because, again like Deep Throat, it raises endless questions about sincerity, pleasure, the public and the private, questions that floated in the air just a year later during the Watergate hearings, questions that still shape our culture.

Lovelace’s voice is the studiously bland voice we hear every day from politicians, in the smuggest of op-eds, in the passive-aggressive niceness of airline employees. Hypocrisy has always been with us, but the mimicking of the colorless tone of down-to- earth “good folks,” of what was once called Middle America, seems to have become prevalent after World War II. It was diagnosed in the earnest realist novels of the 1950s, and parodied in Catch-22, Mad magazine, and The Graduate (“Plastics!”).

The Latin American Mixtape

5 essays. 2 interviews.

All in all, over 25,000 words of Latin American literary goodness.

3 never-before-published essays, including “The Digression”—a 4,000-word piece on the most important digression in César Aira’s career.

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