Critical Mass has a lovely list of links to John Leonard, a critic whose acumen can never be underestimated. Take, for example, this essay from 2005, in which Leonard declares of Jonathan Lethem, “Even so, from a young writer as clever as they come and as crafty as they get, who skinwalked and shape-changed from Kurt Vonnegut into Saul Bellow before our starry eyes, whose Huckleberry Brooklyn novel brought municipal fiction back from the dead, the whimsies in Men and Cartoons look like arrested development. And The Disappointment Artist, a collection of Lethem’s journalism and reminiscences, seems at first to be more of the same. Whole chapters are devoted to John Ford’s westerns, Philip K. Dick’s science fiction, Star Wars, John Cassavetes, and Stanley Kubrick. Page after page celebrates recording artists such as Chuck Berry, David Bowie, the Beatles, Elvis Costello, Brian Eno, Pink Floyd, and Cheap Trick, and such science fiction writers as Frank Herbert and Jules Verne. And when the loftier likes of Kafka, Borges, and Lem, or Faulkner, Beckett, and Joyce, or Cynthia Ozick, Grace Paley, and William Gass are mentioned at all, they will be fingered in brusque passing as ‘professional Bartlebys.’ It’s not as if he’s never met them; they show up in his novels, wearing turtlenecks and trench coats; they hang in his closet. Yet not one is worthy here even of a paragraph.” Today’s book critics are certainly content to venerate authors who deserve it, but a critic like Leonard reminds us that taking a long look at a wunderkind might get us thinking twice and healthily.
R.U. Sirius talks with Steven Levy (interview available in MP3 and text form) about how the iPod has changed culture.
BSG gets renewed for a fourth season, but it appears to be on probation. It’s been guaranteed a minimum of thirteen hours. But given this season’s lackluster results, I really hope that Moore & Co. have been given a short leash so that they’ll turn out better storylines. (via Quiddity)