- James Wood vs. Steven Augustine. I hope to have more to say on Wood’s review of O’Neill later, once I have thought more about why it rubs me the wrong way. It is not, in this case, Wood’s customary championing of realism above everything else, but rather the manner in which he articulates his position. Some of the generalizations that Wood has unearthed from O’Neill’s book (“This is attentive, rich prose about New York in crisis that, refreshingly, is not also prose in crisis”) are as troubled as the assumptions frequently attached to litbloggers: that they generalize and make obvious points about literature. In the paragraph I am citing, there is the illusion here of careful dissection that comes with the strained voice of sophistication (“one lovely swipe of a sentence”), rather than a passionate and more specific dissection. I suspect this is a case where what Wood writes is different from how Wood thinks. But some hard editor should have demanded more clarity. I wouldn’t go as far as Augustine to declare Wood “a middlebrow theorist using highbrow language to communicate his theories.” But I can certainly see why Augustine can come away with this conclusion.
- Funny Farm is a disconcerting but enjoyable distraction for those fond of association that will easily take away hours from your life. You have been warned. (via Waxy)
- Bob Hoover is quite right to point out that memoirs show no sign of slowing down, despite recent controversies. The one regrettable side effect about the whole “memoir” rap is that good old-fashioned autobiographies have fallen by the wayside. Which is a pity, because this means that books like Anthony Burgess’s two volume “Confessions” or Kinski: All I Need is Love couldn’t possibly be published in this environment. Can there not be more fluidity to the form? (via Slunch)
- We shouldn’t be asking ourselves the question of “Who killed the literary critic?” A far more intriguing line of inquiry would have involved the question, “Who killed the human?” Has the role of the human become obsolete in an age of boilerplate “intellectualism,” belabored points, and predictable sentences? Is passion still possible within such a stifling climate? A new book, The Death of the Human, says no, and argues that there are still reasons to believe that there are, in fact, humans who do populate this planet. There are some humans who still partake of rollercoasters, ice cream, and occasionally let loose a raspberry in Carnegie Hall.
- And there’s a lot more from Mr. Sarvas that should keep you busy.
[UPDATE: I have emailed James Wood and he has confirmed with me that he sent Nigel the email.]