Friday, May 08, 2009

Critics’ pay

Roger K. Miller reconsiders Sloan Wilson’s Man in the Gray Flannel Suit, comparing it favorably to Revolutionary Road. He also challenges the view of Jonathan Franzen, advanced in an introduction to the 2002 Da Capo paperback edition, that the first half of the book is the better half. Miller concludes with some interesting background to the novel. Never before have I wanted to read The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit.

It is Golem Week at Wuthering Expectations. Read the Amateur Reader in toto before attempting The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, where the legend of the golem is given a strong, perhaps even brutal, misreading.

Alfred Appel Jr., professor of English at Northwestern and coauthor (with Vladimir Nabokov) of The Annotated Lolita, died of heart failure last Sunday. He was seventy-five. Although I never took a course with Appel, he was among those who made Northwestern’s English department, now sadly depleted, a lively place in the ’eighties. He was a nonbelligerent in the theory wars, and though you might think that you could guess where his sympathies lay, it was always a mistake to assume that you had taken the measure of Appel. He was Nabokov’s student at Cornell before becoming one of Nabokov’s best critics, and was among the first to call for the master’s canonization. In his review of Ada for the New York Times Book Review (May 4, 1969)—he characterized it as a “culminating work”—Appel described Nabokov as a “peer of Kafka, Proust and Joyce, those earlier masters of totally unique universes of fiction.”

If you are convinced that the current recession is “Great Depression II,” Levi Stahl recommends The American Earthquake, a collection of Edmund Wilson’s social criticism from the ’twenties and ’thirties. “The pessimist in me comes away from The American Earthquake fretting,” Stahl says, “about the many lessons of the 1930s that we’ve obviously willfully forgotten; the optimist in me looks to the lasting institutions our grandparents built from the catastrophe—Social Security, unemployment, and Keynesian economics among them—and hopes that they'll help us get through this mess more quickly than we did the first time around.” I sure hope he means unemployment insurance, and I am sure glad that he is not an economist, but Stahl is a good critic, who always makes valuable out-of-the-way recommendations.

Everyone in the literary blogscape wishes a quick conclusion to Litlove’s home renovations. We don’t merely want to hear that she is distracting herself with “the gardening writer Katherine Swift,” but want to hear more about Swift’s “amazing book The Morville Hours,” which Litlove describes as telling “the story of making a garden, but also the intertwined stories of landscape, land, house in which it is created, and also her own life story in a journey through the liturgical calendar and the natural year, written in truly sumptuous and soothing prose.” It is just such a description that leaves us wanting to hear more.


litlove said...

DG - I was going to write about that book today (and it is amazing and well worth taking time over), but Hitchcock jumped the queue. I'll probably write about it tomorrow or the day after.

Amateur Reader said...

Thanks for the mention. I got a lot out of reading and writing about the golem.