I’m afraid I can’t agree with Nick Hornby’s assessment (and Scott’s apparent assent) that reading should be entirely enjoyable. For it subscribes to the idea that novels are almost total escapism, as opposed to a proper art. Proper reading, in my view, demands an intellectual challenge. This is not to suggest that an author can’t write books that are both entertaining and thoughtful. (A recent book that comes to mind is Scarlett Thomas’s The End of Mr. Y.) This is not to suggest that books that are intended to entertain are incapable of being assessed. Nor is this a matter of appearing sophisticated or impressing anyone. (Who knew that reading interests were about looking cool on the subway? I read because I’m interested, dammit, and I don’t give a damn how cornball or hip anyone view my reading selection to be.) But any active reader will raise the bar and insist upon books that are better. Any good reader will read widely and not pooh-pooh certain books because of where they happen to be categorized in a bookstore. Any good reader will continually challenge her perceptions and won’t pussyfoot around the idea that some books are bad (and that there are indeed reasons for this). Revolutionary? Nick Hornby is about as revolutionary as a starry-eyed nineteen year old who believes he can change the world: an insufferable naif; a dime a dozen.
Robert Fulford offers this provocative story on reviewing ethics, suggesting that checking for conflicts of interest are unnecessary and prohibitive to discourse. (via TEV)
An interesting questionnaire with Mary Gaitskill. All those fuddy-duddies who pooh-pooh comics might take stock in this assertion: “You shouldn’t listen to any music while reading anything but a comic book.” (Thanks, Stuart!)
So Many Books on Bookforum: “This is an extremely dangerous magazine and should be read with care.” I have to agree. I have had many issues of Bookforum attempt to bite me, poison me, and otherwise abscond with my life. This is a magazine that should be locked up or be handled by lion tamers. I’m surprised Bookforum has lasted this long without a lawsuit.
Asis Sentinel: “Is it appropriate for a registered charity dedicated to Sri Lanka’s December 2004 tsunami relief to sponsor a foreign literary festival in the middle of what to all intents and purposes is an ethnic and civil war?” And there you have it: twenty minutes of thoughtful cocktail party banter contained in this question alone. Impress all your literary pals and be sure to bring the gruyere!
Calling all detectives! Help Mark Gompertz find his community! Where could Mr. Gompertz have misplaced it? Is Mr. Gompertz looking in the wrong place? Or did the community never exist in the first place? (Turn to Page 124 for the answer.)
Who knew? Those who have lower levels of self-esteem prefer crime and detective stories that confirm their suspicions. In other news, those who go to a website with a ridiculous graphic of a woman in a lotus position for their news are more likely to be duped by Nigerian email scams. (via Sarah)
FoxTrot is going Sundays only. Alas, this unexpected development will not hinder UPS from polluting the funny pages with DOA ass-smelling dreck like Garfield and Ziggy.