March 2011

At Montevidayo, an interesting post from a student who was picked up by campus police after they discovered what he’d written for an assignment in which he was asked to imitate Johannes Göransson.

Here Is One Good Way for a Reader to Approach a Book:

Go in with low expectations, a generous readerly spirit, and a desire to take incomplete pleasures on their own terms.

Random / 8 Comments
March 31st, 2011 / 3:36 pm

80s night

On some public access channel they do this 80s dance. People dress up like the 80s and dance to 80s songs, less with irony or nostalgia than just obtuse impulse, the same impulse which drives people to eat pretzels at a bar, or pet a dog. I always stay on the channel, doing the “coffin” yoga pose on my couch, watching these people dance badly to either bad or great songs. The jury is still out, on whether the 80s created or corrupted “art,” and it doesn’t matter, as there will always be dogs, no matter how badly they behave. Most wear dark sunglasses, as if bracing for the light at the middle of the tunnel.


Random / 16 Comments
March 31st, 2011 / 3:25 pm

For the shit genre!

Opening my notebook the morning after a night of woozy ambien scribbling is like opening a present: you never know what’s inside. Today there was a note that said, “Beckett—101-2. Shit genre.”

Here is the passage I noted. It’s from Samuel Beckett’s first play Eleuthéria, which was disowned by the Beckett Estate.

Dr. Piouk: What does he do?
Mme. Meck: (With pride) He is a man of letters.
Dr. Piouk: You don’t say! (Enter M. Krap. He reaches his armchair and cautiously sits down)
M. Krap: You were saying nice things about me, I feel it.
Mme. Meck: There isn’t anything the matter with her?
M. Krap: She is unharmed.
Mme. Meck: She is coming?
M. Krap: She’s getting ready for that.
Mme. Piouk: There was a time when you were unaffected.
M. Krap: At the cost of what artifice!
Dr. Piouk: You are a writer, Monsieur?
M. Krap: What gives you leave to–
Dr. Piouk: It can be felt in the way you express yourself.
Mme. Piouk: Where has she been?
Mme. Meck: She is going to tell us.
M. Krap: I will be frank with you. I was a writer.
Mme. Meck: He is a member of the Institute!
M. Krap: What did I tell you.
Dr. Piouk: What genre?
M. Krap: I don’t follow you.
Dr. Piouk: I speak of your writings. Your preferences were for what genre?
M. Krap: For the shit genre.
Mme. Piouk: Really.
Dr. Piouk: Poetry or prose?
M. Krap: One day the former, another day the latter.
Dr. Piouk: And you now deem your body of work to be complete?
M. Krap: The lord has flushed me out.
Dr. Piouk: A small book of memoirs does not tempt you?
M. Krap: That would spoil the death throes.
Mme. Meck: Admit that this is a bizarre way to treat guests.
Mlle. Skunk: Extremely odd.

The shit genre. I love that. I’m stealing that. Whenever someone asks me what genre I prefer I will tell them, “The shit genre, of course.” You’ve never heard of it? You must not know much about literature. (Like Beckett’s characters, I sometimes fantasize about getting sassy with “legitimate” types….)


Behind the Scenes & Craft Notes & I Like __ A Lot & Massive People & Random / 8 Comments
March 31st, 2011 / 3:02 pm

Criticism and The Pale King

Elegant but problematic write-up on The Pale King in GQ by John Jeremiah Sullivan. Read it for the elegance, but I’d like to unfairly isolate the review’s conclusion, which alarmed me for the reasons articulated below. Quote:

Wallace’s work will be seen as a huge failure, not in the pejorative sense, but in the special sense Faulkner used when he said about American novelists, “I rate us on the basis of our splendid failure to do the impossible.” Wallace failed beautifully. There is no mystery whatsoever about why he found this novel so hard to finish. The glimpse we get of what he wanted it to be—a vast model of something bland and crushing, inside of which a constellation of individual souls would shine in their luminosity, and the connections holding all of us together in this world would light up, too, like filaments—this was to be a novel on the highest order of accomplishment, and we see that the writer at his strongest would have been strong enough. He wasn’t always that strong.

Insightful, or regurgitation of the “humanist” DFW diet? At what point will critics realize that there is not one single sense to DFW’s work–that is, Wallace as what Kyle Beachy, ironically or not, called the “empathy machine,” the brain with a heartbeat? There is no question that this caricature of Wallace suits our time, but it nevertheless should be considered as just that: a pitiful reduction of what Wallace demands, and the ensnaring of criticism in the dangerous matrix of “human values”–as if he awoke from his postmodern slumber merely to mourn the “souls who would shine”–which is, incidentally, my answer to Blake’s recent post. Answer: a critic should be critical, a problem which will be the challenge and measure of reviewing The Pale King.

Massive People / 49 Comments
March 31st, 2011 / 2:26 pm

Early 1Q84 / Murakami Roundup

At the Alfred A. Knopf blog, Chip Kidd discusses the process of designing the book jacket for the long-awaited American edition of Haruki Murakami’s 1Q84.

Murakami’s Random House site offers “The Murakami Mix” READ MORE >

Random / 15 Comments
March 31st, 2011 / 3:32 am

Steinbeck on rejection:

“I think everyone in the world to a large or small extent has felt rejection. And with rejection comes anger, and with anger some kind of crime in revenge for the rejection, and with the crime guilt–and there is the story of mankind. I think that if rejection could be amputated, the human would not be what he is. Maybe there would be fewer crazy people. I am sure in myself there would not be many jails.”

–Lee in East of Eden

My favorite basketball blogger, Bethlehem Shoals of FreeDarko, is covering the Barry Bonds trial for The Daily.  I don’t know what the Barry Bonds trial is and I’ve never read The Daily, but his twitter account over the past few days has been hilarious.  Best trial coverage I’ve ever read.

Second Somewhat Bi- oh wait Semi- no it’s Biennial Grammar Challenge!

This is for fun.

This is a contest. It is taken from a homework assignment in David Foster Wallace’s Extremely Advanced Composition class at Pomona College. It was a creative nonfiction workshop.

The contest is, correct these sentences for what Wallace, at least, perceived as errors in mechanics, grammar, punctuation, syntax, idiom, and/or usage. You get a point every time you are the first person to correct an error in comments (by rewriting the sentence correctly), but I’m going to wait to get lots of answers in to reveal the answers, so don’t hesitate to tackle a sentence that someone else has already tried. You may make multiple guesses on the same sentence, and you can guess out of order. Some sentences may have more than one error. One point per error. Prize TBA.

Some of these are pretty basic. Some are very obscure and speak to Wallace’s particular peeves, some of which I don’t share. The point is to figure out what he thought was wrong with these. No use arguing with a dead man.

And I quote:

English 183D 10 March 2004

” . . . every such phrase anesthetizes a portion of one’s brain.”–G. Orwell

(1) It was the yuletide season like I had never seen it before.

(2) We were in Innsbruck, Austria and we could not find a place to stay the night.

(3) We passed by the inn.

(4) It has made its way into the mainstream of verbal discourse.

(5) Cross burning began in medieval times on the green hills of Scotland, where clans used them to rally their kin and kith against enemies.

(6) “Get used to it.” I said to myself.

(7) As the president is a Christian, he prays every morning.

(8) I can support this claim with quotes from several published sources.

(9) It consisted of only two brief 50-minute workshops which one speaker enticingly described as “therapy session sized.”


Craft Notes / 50 Comments
March 30th, 2011 / 11:28 pm

Vicarious 7th Grade

This is a picture of three people whose identities are either already known or shall be implicated herein. What follows — not the picture, which happened in a cool city (not Dublin), but related discourse — took place within the last hour between (a) this contributor, (b) the lady in mention, and, separately, (c) our managing editor, a kind man who often offers emotional and grammatical counsel.


Behind the Scenes / 40 Comments
March 30th, 2011 / 5:25 pm