Roundup

  • One week, she’s giving marital advice to the Beckhams; the next week, she’s polluting the television medium with her drivel. I remain convinced that there is no way to get the media to stop paying attention to Jackie Collins (including me, apparently).
  • Someone must also ask this: when was the last time David Denby was enthusiastic about film? Presumably, “the spectacle of dying” also explains Denby’s recumbent work of late. Denby has offered very thoughtful reviews in the past, but someone needs to whip the man into shape. David Remnick, it is your duty to unleash a horde of ball-busting editors on Denby before March!
  • Don’t entirely discount hasty reading. I can agree with Ms. Waters that some books, such as David Markson’s Going Down (which I am now reading), simply cannot be read fast. But if Ms. Waters honestly believes that the average reader should diagram every single sentence and deconstruct the fuck out of every volume, then I have to wonder just how she has fun on a Saturday night. Is not the joy of reading predicated upon leaving some spontaneity or ambiguity to the reader? I’m not suggesting that books should be construed as mere entertainments, but if the process of understanding literature is not engaging on some level (hopefully with a modicum of fun), then what hope for tomorrow’s grad students? Besides, who is Ms. Waters to dictate just how any individual reader reads? One of the joys of reading is returning to a book a second or third time, realizing that a particular passage from a book you haven’t touched in six years is calling you in the dead of night, lending some aid or reference to another unsolved and entirely unrelated mystery.
  • I don’t know if I mentioned this already, but Scott McLemee is now blogging, although I must reprimand him for using “thorough” and “Wikipedia” in the same sentence.
  • Oh, grow some balls, Gerry Adams. (via Elegant Variation)
  • Dan Wickett’s Dzanc Books is starting to pump out a few titles. Set for 2008: a Yannick Murphy short story collection and a volume from Peter Markus.
  • Matthew Tiffany has scored a future interview with Dave Eggers and Valentino Deng. Failure to engage Mr. Eggers on his inexplicable flip-flopping will be duly observed, Mr. Tiffany. Go get ’em, tiger. Nobody else has the balls. (Well, I would, but Eggers has refused multiple interview requests.)
  • I’d like to agree with Levi (somewhat) concerning bloggers “loathing” the NYTBR. I don’t “loathe” Sam Tanenhaus (just as I don’t “loathe” Dave Eggers, much as he and his minions seem to think I do). “Loathing” implies that I feel complete disgust for the NYTBR. But if I “loathe” this weekly broadsheet, why then have I praised David Orr, Liesel Schillinger and Dwight Garner on these pages? This “with us or against us” mentality might sit well with paranoids and conspiracy freaks, but it doesn’t sit with me. I apply a great degree of scrutiny to anyone, including authors I admire (see my recent Miéville review). It’s the only way I can stay honest. Perhaps the issue here is one of assumed respect, a collective state where one assumes that because something is printed in a prominent newspaper, it must therefore be “beyond criticism” (like Saul Bellow, apparently*). But how can any solid thinker maintain such an attitude? Why is vehement disagreement confused with a jihad? That my clear skepticism and playfulness is confused with “loathing” reveals quite a lot about the disingenuous nature of today’s book review climate. (And, no, I don’t “loathe” Mark either for quibbling over his verb choice here; far from it.)

* — See also this post from Dan Green.

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