Glad To Have That Cleared Up

Always thrilling when big-time academics approve of me enjoying literature:

Garber appears to have changed her mind. She now insists that literature is irreducible. It is not a portal to something more important than literature. She celebrates “the non-‘about’-ness of literature, its refusal to be grounded or compromised by referentiality.” “Literature is a first-order, not a second-order, phenomenon,” she writes, demolishing the pretensions of cognitive science, which claims to have found the master key that unlocks the cultural universe. “It is not simply a clever kind of code developed by the mind to ensure that we all possess a mental Rolodex of figures enabling the nimble linking and blending of commonly held thoughts. It does not merely frame concepts or conceptual metaphors in pleasing or memorable phrases. Language makes meaning, or rather, meanings; it does not merely reflect it.”

Do not approach books as if they need to be unmasked, Garber insists. Do not tell them to come out with their hands up. Do not reduce Proust to a series of talking points. Do not repackage Tolstoy as a self-help manual. “We do literature a real disservice if we reduce it to knowledge or to use, to a problem to be solved. If literature solves problems, it does so by its own inexhaustibility, and by its ultimate refusal to be applied or used even for moral good.”

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I can’t wait for my state’s conservative legislation to use Garber’s point as evidence when they defund our entire department for its spectacular “uselessness.”


The Surrender is Scott Esposito’s “collection of facts” concerning his lifelong desire to be a woman.


Two long essays of 10,000 words each on sex in—and out of—literature . . .

The first essay dives in to Nicholson Baker’s “sex trilogy,” explaining just what Baker is up to here and why these books ultimately fail to be as sexy as Baker might wish.

From there the book moves on to the second essay, which explains just why Spaniard Javier Marías does right what Baker does wrong . . .


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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