Friday, April 17, 2009

Don’t go there

In the name of God, what are two books by Jonathan Culler doing alongside Arnold Bennett, Somerset Maugham, F. R. Leavis, and J. M. Coetzee in Nigel Beale’s stack of books to lug home from South Africa?

The Los Angeles Times handicaps the Pulitzer Prize in fiction, to be announced Monday. Top three picks: Marilynne Robinson’s Home (too Christian), John Updike’s Widows of Eastwick (the jury won’t award the prize posthumously), and Philip Roth’s Indignation (not a “big”-enough Roth). You heard it here first. The winner will be Louise Erdrich’s Plague of Doves.

Jerome Weeks appears to have abandoned Book/Daddy.

Ben Kipela discovers the nineteenth-century American poet Agnes Lee, who leads him to reread J. V. Cunningham. Any poet who achieves such an effect deserves immediate immortality.

Maud Newton interviews Marlon James, another of those novelists who has turned his back upon the unspeakable evils of capitalism to write instead of slavery.

“After a steady diet of Victorian Catholic novelists,” Miriam Burstein cheats with Stephen Booth’s Kill Call and Ruth Rendell’s Birthday Present.

Making sure that more Pulitzer Prize-winners are not forgotten, Roger K. Miller praises The Bridge of San Luis Rey (final verdict: plenty of riches, but not perfect) and one of the reviewers at Mookse and the Gripes tackles Humboldt’s Gift (arouses a curiosity about his three National Book Award-winning novels, but not for “all things Bellow”).

Patrick Kurp celebrates fiction’s ability to draw together disparate events.

And Daniel Green continues to ignore his incoherence on the question of literature.


NigelBeale said...

Wasn't it Roosevelt who sought and considered advice from all sorts of conflicting sources?

D. G. Myers said...

What? Leavis and Maugham are not enough of a conflict for you?

R. T. said...

Well, call me dense (though you will not be the first to do so), but I am baffled about your lead, "Don't Go There." Your saying somewhat cynically, as I gather, that the content of your links is not worthy of attention. Consider then the paradox of your listing of links (an implied invitation to seek them out) and your lead. So, in my density, I ask, "What's your point?"

Toast said...

Nigel has no idea whether Leavis and Maugham get along or not, and really isn't smart enough to follow any disputes he might find. You, on the other hand, are so deeply coated in dust and cobwebs it's a miracle you can see the keyboard to type.

Anonymous said...

And what exactly is the matter with Jonathan Culler? One may agree or disagree with his attempt to import structuralism into the American academy, but he's no dope.

D. G. Myers said...

You . . . are so deeply coated in dust and cobwebs it’s a miracle you can see the keyboard to type.

That’s the best you’ve got? That I’m old?Reminds me of the thief in an episode of NYPD Blue who tries to insult Sipowicz by saying, “You’re so old you probably listen to AM radio.”

If I am coated with cobwebs, it may be because of this. My six-year-old son Dov is a Spider-Man fanatic.

The dust is my own fault.

Toast said...

I believe Jonathan Culler is around about the same age as you and Nigel Beale is some years younger than you, but Culler is the only one of the three of you not covered in dust and cobwebs. So, no, it's not age; it's your affect. You bury yourself in bluff citations of Henry James and every other grouchy old master who made the mistake of reflecting on what is and what will be. The observations of the mighty that you love to drag out were never written for you, in fact they condemn you. You are the scholarly buffoon, puffing up your whiskers with lamentations about the decline and fall of literature, civilization, the white man. But you dwell in a drafty corner of an academic bureaucrat's tower in Texas. Look outside. Somerset Maugham is not going to stem the tide of whatever is bearing down on you. Nor is bringing back evaluation to literary criticism. Nor, for god's bloody sake, is blogging. Whatever Culler's faults, at least he doesn't blog. How is it that the "newest" and most cutting edgest of information technology has become the favored resort of stuffy conservatives who'd like to roll back the clock to some fantasy time before any of this came along and spoiled it, so now — instead of living on one's wits in London, France, and New York; hobnobbing with the luminous wits of the day; and working feverishly on one's master-works between déjeuner and absinthe — one is forced to take a menial job teaching literature to the rabble and sinking into a drowsing, implacable obscurity.

R. T. said...

Though I do not have a dog in this fight (with apologies to Michael Vick for the metaphor), I think an observation is now in order: Toast, whatever his or her background and current status, seems to have something against academia. I wonder, though, if Toast's pique could not be more substantively and courteously rendered. Civility, after all, enriches dialogue, whereas snarky barbs relect rather unfavorably on the monologist.

D. G. Myers said...

Much better, Mr Toast. You are showing real improvement. Perhaps in time you will become a half-decent insult artist.

There are some obvious flaws, however. The swipe at Texas is a cliché, and so is the image of an academic tower. There are only two towers on the campus of Texas A&M University, neither of which houses the English department (where I do not spend any time writing). Not that reality should get in your way.

Perhaps I should apologize for citing Henry James, but I don’t much feel like it today. He may be a “grouchy old master,” but he is a master—unlike the “luminous wits of the day.” Who are they, by the way? Do you even know? Or is that just another readymade phrase?

And what is wrong with blogging? True enough, it prevents me from turning out such monuments of deathless prose as Structuralist Poetics and On Deconstruction, but it is a kind of writing with a long and honorable tradition. (I do realize that anything with a tradition is immediately suspect in your eyes.)

Finally, although I am indeed a “scholarly buffoon”—no one buffoonier—and though I am indeed a conservative (Buddy Holly’s “Not Fade Away” is my anthem), I have never spent much time lamenting the “decline and fall of literature, civilization, the white man.” You would prefer the targets of your insults to be straw men, I know. But facts are facts. Not that you should undertake the responsibility to learn that there is more to conservativism (or even scholarly buffoonery!) than your received ideas.

As for the rest. What is “bearing down” upon me (bodily decrepitude, death) and the “implacable obscurity”: these do not distinguish me from you, my friend.

Robert Levy said...

Inconceivable - it was not Louise Erdrich’s Plague of Doves - but the winner goes to Elizabeth Strout for Olive Kitteridge (Random House)