What Comes Next
If you were to ask me what comes next, the best answer is that I do not know. But if I try to reason through the question, I tend to divide the problem into parts. On the one hand, one of these parts, the personal facet, is what’s to come after my present literature. Or, rather, what will I be writing, what will the next books be like, or even more importantly, how will I relate to them. . . . continue reading, and add your comments
I think Dan Green has a pretty good take on Clive James’s “whither the hatchet job” piece. Dan says,
The problem is not “a shortage of critics unhampered by excessive good manners.” The problem is that in too many of the “major” publications, reviews of fiction, at least, are assigned to other fiction writers, who, perhaps understandably, don’t want to set their own books up for abuse when they are published. Thus no one writes bad books. At worst, a few disappoint. (Otherwise, everyone’s marvelous!)
I would add “striving for cultural relevance” to the list of reasons . . . continue reading, and add your comments
I’ve been on the road pretty much all the month of May, which is why the blog has been worse than its usual level of barely adequate. This will all change before too much longer.
Nice essay on the theorist Giorgio Agamben at the LARB.
During the Bush years, however, Agamben’s investigations of sovereign authority, the state of emergency (or exception), and the concept of “bare life” seemed to speak directly to the most immediate and pressing political concerns of the day: the emergency powers claimed in the War on Terror, the fate of the “detainees” kept in the lawless zone of Guantánamo Bay, and the general reassertion of the kind of state sovereignty that globalization was supposed to be rendering irrelevant. Despite being coincidentally topical, however, there is still much that is . . . continue reading, and add your comments
Nice profile here of Intizar Husain. Though I ultimately found Basti to be not the strongest work, I’m pretty sure a big part of that was the translation, and I would be interested to read more of his work.
Husain, the iconic Pakistani Urdu writer of Indian origin, who was nominated earlier this year for the Man Booker International Prize, is a man very difficult to pin down. A realist, symbolist, writer of abstract stories, romantic, escapist, memorialist, mythographer—he is something of each and yet contained by none of these categories. He sounded the demise of the . . . continue reading, and add your comments
I link to this less out of an opinion about Alice Munro (though to the extent that I know her work, I find this critique very valid) than out of admiration for the quality of the critical writing here.
There’s something confusing about the consensus around Alice Munro. It has to do with the way her critics begin by asserting her goodness, her greatness, her majorness or her bestness, and then quickly adopt a defensive tone, instructing us in ways of seeing as virtues the many things about her writing that might be considered shortcomings. So she writes . . . continue reading, and add your comments
I don’t really think this is an “ethical” practice (or at least not any more than its opposite), but it does seem to be an interesting twist on the “we only publish positive reviews” idea. Although, it’s unclear precisely what the LARB’s policy is. Where is the line between “constructive critique” and “reviewing positively”? Surely most first-time writers would benefit from honest feedback from competent critics. If the critic ultimately sees the book as a failure, then the constructive critique would not be run?
The Los Angeles Review of Books has a policy, which the editor Evan Kindley . . . continue reading, and add your comments
James Gleick at the NYRB:
It may seem that Smolin himself is taking on one of the grandest cosmic questions of all. He does try to restrain himself, though, to hypotheses that make testable, falsifiable predictions about the universe we can observe. The scientific case he makes is intricate, involving methods from loop quantum gravity (one of several approaches to combining quantum theory and the theory of relativity). He depicts the geometry of space as a graph with nodes and edges. He has reserved some detail for online appendices at www.timere born.com and plans to publish a more . . . continue reading, and add your comments
In my wholly subjective and ill-informed opinion, it strikes me that this demonstrates why someone like Stanley Fish was not a great critic, whereas someone like Harold Bloom (who published his most recent book of criticism in 2011 at age 81) is.
The ostensible reason for this de-acquisition is a move from a fair-sized house to a much smaller apartment. It is true, as Anthony Powell said in a title, that books do furnish a room, but in this case, too many books, too little room. But the deeper reason is that it was time. What I saw . . . continue reading, and add your comments
Interesting roundup of reactions to Lydia Davis taking the “International” Booker Prize. Davis probably was the best writer on the list of finalists (insofar as I’ve read them; I think there are 3 or 4 I have little to no knowledge of), but I do think the committee could have put together a better shortlist. Not just in terms of quality of writing, but also in terms of availability in the English language (which seems to be a real barrier for this prize). One has to wonder just how widely read the judging committee is, in terms of . . . continue reading, and add your comments