Wednesday, August 09, 2017

The Limits of Critique: Literary Desire

I am what time, circumstance, history, have made of me, certainly, but I am also, much more than that. So are we all.— James Baldwin, born in 1924


BEST THING TO COME FROM JAPAN SINCE WALKMAN: Scientists create incredible ice cream that won’t melt.

Dangerous pavements.
But I face the ice this year
With my father’s stick

 “Do not be afraid to take a chance on peace, to teach peace, to live peace.

[H]e refused to accommodate to the “tyranny of the possible”: the idea that some things just can’t be put right; that we’re stuck with the way things are, however much we may dislike them…
He refused to believe that the false ideas of the human person and human history embodied in communism could divide Europe indefinitely; and by igniting a revolution of conscience behind the iron curtain, the man the last president of the Soviet Union called “the world’s greatest moral authority” became an agent of liberation for his Slavic brethren and the precursor of new possibilities in international affairs.

John Paul II: Do Not Be Afraid - YouTube

       The Hurun Report has released their list of Mopian Hurun Most Valuable Creative Works IP 2017, "ranking the 'Harry Potters' of China, the 100 creative works with the most valuable franchises"; see also the fuller Chinese press release. 
       Summing up in the Global Times, Huang Tingting findsHurun's list of most valuable literature IPs reflects growing power of online works -- as:
The top 10 online literature writers in China have created franchises worth a staggering 1 billion yuan ($150 million) each,

       In Prospect Andrew Dickson considers Tom Stoppard's heartfelt high jinks. 
       At the BBC Benjamin Ramm offers an overview of The writers who defied Soviet censors, a nice little look back at the samizdat (etc.)- phenomenon. 

J K Rowling has topped a list of the world’s 11 highest paid authors for the first time in almost a decade.

Part of what so attracted readers to Kakutani’s work was her constant objectivity, a quality that was on display in her ability to write admiringly of an author and then, if underwhelmed by a later release, roast them over a fire. Kakutani praised Jonathan Franzen’s novel The Corrections as a “devastating family portrait and a harrowing portrait of America in the late 1990s”, but was less intrigued by his 2006 memoir The Discomfort Zone, questioning “why anyone would be interested in pages and pages about this unhappy relationship or the self-important and self-promoting contents of Mr Franzen’s mind”. The novelist fired back in an interview with the Guardian, calling Kakutani “tone-deaf and humorless”. Then, two years later, at a discussion with James Wood at Harvard, he upped the ante by referring to the critic as “the stupidest person in New York City”.

“The people we most love do become a physical part of us, ingrained in our synapses, in the pathways where memories are created,” poet Meghan O’Rourke wrote in her stirring memoir of losing her mother. More than a century earlier, another poet with a rare gift for philosophical prose reflected on mortality in the wake of her own mother’s death

Dangerous pavements.
But I face the ice this year
With my father’s stick.

Dangerous Pavements – Irish Haiku 

Exclusive Police investigate NSW Greens staffer, Jarah Crook, after being outed as alleged serial rapist by survivors - Lauren Ingram

Kakutani v Mailer

The literary life of Michiko Kakutani: the book critic's best feuds and reviews | Books | The Guardian

 Informal Inquiries: Who was the first sinner in the Bible?

The 12th Annual Statistical Report of the HILDA Survey  is now available. The report explores seven topics:

•Family life

•Economic well-being

•Labour market outcomes



•Young home-owners

•Attitudes to marriage, parenting and work

The Parliamentary library has pulled out some highlights.

Stream Randy Newman's New Album, 'Dark Matter

Essayism is ultimately about how literature can make a difference 

What truly comes across in this book is that the essay may well be a sally against the subject, but what is tried, in the final reckoning, are the authors themselves. And, of course, found wanting, in both senses of the word. 

...Literary desire

That thing that you like is actually bad.” This, more or less, is the central thesis of countless articles on subjects ranging from Taylor Swift’s “squad” to the movie Love Actually to Pope Francis’s latest notable public gesture. Sure (the argument goes), these things might initially seem to be good—promising new possibilities for friendship, romantic comedy, or mercy (respectively)—but the cool demystifying critic refuses to be taken in by their shiny appeal. Each winds up confined to a half-lit shadow world named by the newly popular term “problematic”: not flagrantly bad or offensive, but certainly not unimpeachably good. This tendency can be found at all points of the political and theological spectrum. But whence comes this at times relentless drive to unmask, uncover, and insist on the seamy underside of nearly everything that seems worthy of regard?
There is an admirable humility here, one that takes seriously the experiences of the person sometimes condescendingly called the “common reader”: someone like yourself, when you read for no other reason than because you like to. These readers find themselves drawn into the works of Tolkien, or Austen, or David Foster Wallace, or Anne Tyler, or Eugene Vodolazkin, or whomever not because they want to diagnose something that is wrong with these books, but because they offer an experience of . . . well, something that seems inchoately but truly worthwhile and pleasurable.