Saturday, October 31, 2009

Post for All Hallow's Eve

It's scary that Windows 7 is striking me as pretty good for an operating system. Whatever flavor of IE I have to run not so much, but the office package is pretty good too. I still imagine a much simpler text editor would be best for first drafting of anything, but I am not of a mind to abandon the PC paradigm for this iteration. Like I said, Scary.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Setting Fire to Straw

When I was first introduced to New Historicism ...

I really wish that I remembered what I was getting based on the headline. It's suggestive and perhaps it's something I overheard. It's also snappy, which is more than I can say for the first line of the blog, which I am afraid sounds to me pretty 2004, although for some reason I felt somewhat exercised about the New Historicism as recently as last February. Do kids today care about the New Historicism? It had its charms and dooms as almost any literary theory, but for the life of me I can't remember what I had to say back in February 2009.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

The Partiality of Postmodernism

It is curious fact, but rarely noted, that all the American novelists that literary journalists* consider who were born before 1950 (Roth, Bellow, Updike, Mailer) have written novels that are (avowedly or not) are "postmodern." Bellow, the seeming exception, with his curmudgeonly paleoconservatism in fact became well known because of his most postmodern work, Herzog, where the professorial protagonist writes to all and assundried historical figures or not in the Berkshires, in search for authentic history, while only bringing back pastiche. Ravelstein has its own irony (figured in the title and name of the character in "ravel," that term where the negative means to make straight), turning upon itself, even as it formally outs a friend of Bellows.**

Roth and Updike are more conscious practictioners, although the latter takes to it more as yet another demonstration of his facility, while Roth writes his most postmodern work The Counterlife (a book strange enough to be compared to Philip K. Dick's Valis) about a rant against diasporism--postmodernism fits self-conscious Roth like a glove. There are of course (successful) exceptions--Robert Stone has never resorted to an ironic structure or narration in his major works, while Alice Munro lovingly mines a territory worthy of Faulkner in a manner worthy of Chekhov--but the presence of postmodernism in the reviewers' canon belies their multiple insistences that arid theses of this mode dry up meaning and muffle readerly empathy. The most insistent demonstration of this is the fact that, after writing The Naked and The Dead, Norman Mailer in his highly conscious quest to be the Great American Novelist had his greatest impact with Advertisements for Myself and his nonfiction novels, The Armies of the Night and The Executioner's Song. More power to the Norman, but at some point American literary journalists should come clean about how, a clean well-lit be damned, they loves themselves some postmodernism.

*Imagine Michiko Kakutani or Sam Tannenhaus, and then try to imagine writers with more imagination, intelligence or, what the hell, elan. There are exceptions to this paradigm, but they do not include Jonathan Franzen when he reviews.

and presciently diagnoses how (postmodern) Straussian neoconservatism works

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

28 Years: 1

A post by Paul Krugman on his blog explains why even the good times just weren't that good under Bush II: the jobs were never really there. This achievement, mind you, is the result, of exactly the same policy of tax breaks and stimulus checks that Republicans in Congress, as well in some Governor's offices and state legislatures, have been pushing as the cure for current economic problems. Not that this is much of a policy: if the government gives back money without asking for anything in return, one can't claim that much thought has put into the plan except for the part about giving away the money. Admittedly, Bush II's first tax cuts had had some thought put into them: priority for giving back money was given to the wealthy.

There are perhaps more articulate or at least longer explanations that could be given for these policies, but they would obscure the one characteristic of Bush II's policy initiatives: their consistency in asking for no actions.

Magic Books

Laura Miller is nice, but what does the mean that even our smartest book reviewers don't read any literary criticism.

Elaine Showalter, "A Jury of Her Peers" | Salon Books