Roundup

  • I was extremely bothered by this piece of wankery from the NBCC. And it wasn’t because my “nemesis” Lev Grossman was involved. The NBCC, you see, is hosting a panel on just how gosh darn hard it is to look at them crazy genre spooks that threaten to drive down the neighborhood property values, when the critic’s goal is to remain high-minded. “High-minded,” of course, meaning elitist. After all, the Grand Wizard told us that NOTHING WHATSOEVER OF LITERARY WORTH can come from mysteries, thrillers, romances, science fiction, comic books, mis lit, chick lit, cock lit, cunt lit, or whatever other bullshit lit label affixed to a book.

    For we all know that these books must drink from a different fountain and should do nothing more than carry our suitcases up to our hotel rooms. Thank goodness we all remain liberal about literature, heeding the wisdom of the great D.W. Griffith film classic The Birth of a Novel, as we continue to smile as these books say “Thankya, suh,” after we tip them generously.

    I was prepared to respond to the wholesale arrogance and anti-intellectual nature of this panel and the fact that, aside from genre-friendly EW critic Jennifer Reese, John Freeman didn’t have the good sense to, oh say, get a regular mystery columnist on the panel to discuss many sides of the issue. He seemed more content to stack the deck against genre.

    Thankfully, Jennifer Weiner has done my work for me. This is a useless panel that practices needless segregation. The NBCC stands for “National Book Critics Circle.” Last I heard, tomes that fell outside mainstream literary fiction were books too.

  • Joshua Ferris discovers the Hold Steady two years after everybody else has. Next year, Ferris plans on raving about how great LCD Soundsystem’s “Losing My Edge” is.
  • Colleen Mondor emailed Scarlett Thomas and collected her correspondence into a thoughtful interview with one of today’s most underrated writers.
  • I love these kids. (via Gwenda)
  • Callie has more on the “to MFA or not to MFA” controversy.
  • Jessa Crispin, with typical insouciant ignorance, suggests, “Pick up any other book review section — particular in Chicago [sic] — tear off the header, and you would have no idea where it came from.” Well, that’s just plain wrong. For example, I doubt you’d ever see the sentences, “The drinks mounted frightfully: a pale ale, a lager, a few beers, several gin-and-French cocktails, a double shot of gin (drunk from a toothbrush glass). I began to feel a bit lightheaded myself, and still the river flowed on: wine, gin and lime juice, more beer, whisky,” in the NYTBR (at least not under Tanenhaus’s watch).

    I think any person who follows the book review sections can probably guess where the above sentences came from. While I agree that there’s something of a homogeneity in current book review coverage (i.e., an apparent moratorium on fun and enthusiasm, which I’m doing my best to uproot with my own contributions), even an elementary literary enthusiast would be hard-pressed to look at a piece written by Daniel Mendelsohn, Liesl Schillinger, Laura Miller, David Orr, or the ever-thoughtful Ed Park and claim that it came from somebody else.

  • RIP Jean Baudrillard. Wow, there are no words. There is no reality. I will post a roundup when reactions come in.
  • A.L. Kennedy on the Granta list. (via Bookninja)
  • Newsweek asked readers the five books they’ve always wanted to read but haven’t gotten around to. Here are the top choices. (via Classical Bookworm)
  • The beginning of the end.
  • Who knew that Farnham’s Freehold was so “controversial?” I’m all for this bizarre Heinlein novel, which I first read when I was thirteen, being reissued, but I’m wondering if Heinlein is becoming so passe that publishers will resort to anything to draw attention.
  • In Praise of Ethel Muggs.
  • Maud conducts a fascinating contest.
  • If you’re a writer who needs a day job, Justine Larbalesiter has been soliciting queries on this point.
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10 Comments

  1. I’ve never heard of this Hold Steady band, but I think that Nirvana group is someone to watch.

    What I love about you is that you can get on your high horse about close-minded book critics (asses, no doubt, I agree with you there) and then display your sneering hipster superiority about someone else being late to the acclaimed music game all in the same post. You fascinate me, I admit it.

  2. “Joshua Ferris discovers the Hold Steady two years after everybody else has. Next year, Ferris plans on raving about how great LCD Soundsystem’s “Losing My Edge” is.”

    Well! Look who’s hipper-than-thou!

  3. As one of the particpants in tomorrow’s wankery, I’m not exactly impartial, but I have to admire the way you’ve willfully misread and pre-judged not just the panel’s topic but its actual contents. I’m grateful, as you’ve saved me the trouble of preparing or showing up — I’ve got a lot to do, and the weather here in New York is pretty crummy this week.

    I’m just not sure how you take the questions ” Why do critics review genre fiction so condescendingly? Why does genre fiction get so little critical attention? Who are the hacks, and who are the pros, and how do we tell them apart — and do literary critics have the skills to do it?” as anything other than OPEN to genre, and WILLING to address the disparities in review attention. I would imagine that someone who reads across genres would be glad to know that the NBCC is considering this sort of issue — but then I’m at a disadvantage: I haven’t heard the panel discussion yet.

  4. Ferris is spot on about Okk River.

    Here’s an earnest question: Why isn’t Ike Reilly even half as critically adored as The Hold Steady? (See also Menomena v. TV On the Radio.)

  5. “May: Examine the lyrics to “Losing My Edge.” You’re missing the irony.”

    That’s the point isn’t it? I (we) miss it, you get it. That’s the (sub) text of your whole blog. It’s what makes you fascinating.

  6. Also, you’re really jumping to conclusions on that NBCC panel. I didn’t give a shit, but because this panel person spoke up, I took a look for myself, at the panel, at the comments and at Ms. Weiner’s blog post.

    First, Ms. Weiner is reacting not to the panel, as you are, but to that obviously ridiculous post by this McAfee woman.

    Second, the panel is set up as asking questions about the exact issues you’re complaining about where in this list: “Why do critics review genre fiction so condescendingly? Why does genre fiction get so little critical attention? Who are the hacks, and who are the pros, and how do we tell them apart – and do literary critics have the skills to do it?” Where from that list do you get a message that they’re signaling genre fiction has no literary worth? If anything the list is implicitly critical of the job critics do of sorting through the genre works, and not critical of the work itself.

    Last, that panel has a genre writer (Mosley), an editor/reviewer at a genre friendly pub (EW) and an editor at the most comprehensive reviewing source that must review more genre works than any other publication (PW).

    How can you possibly have a beef with that? Are you confusing that one poster’s message with the purposes of the panel?

  7. Actually, I think Baudrillard faked his own death and the took over the identity of another man named Jean Baudrillard.

  8. um where does josh ferris say that he’s just discovered the hold steady? he’s talking abt them bcz they’re touring + he likes them. he could have been up on craig finn since lifter puller for all you know. but good work.

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