Sunday, November 08, 2020

Tom Stoppard ...Martin Amis

In a past post, I included the following from novelist Jose Saramago’s The Elephant’s Journey (2008):

It must be said that history is always selective, and discriminatory too, selecting from life only what society deems to be historical and scorning the rest, which is precisely where we might find the true explanation of facts, of things, of wretched reality itself. In truth, I say to you, it is better to be a novelist, a fiction writer, a liar.

Screaming in the aisles, crying in the foyer: hit show returns to Belvoir 

Sean Connery showed us the way things ought to be some

Hermione Lee, Tom Stoppard: A Life.  So many pages, and perhaps this will not be surpassed soon.  Yet it never quite tells you how he got to be so smart, or how his intellectual development proceeded, or even what his smartness consists of.  So I can’t say I liked it.  By the way, for those of you who don’t know, it seems to me that Stoppard is one of the smartest people and also the most important living playwright, most of all for anyone interested in intellectual history.

Ronald Bailey and Marian L. Tupy, Ten Global Trends Every Smart Person Should Know.  Lovely visuals, blurb from Pinker, the curves slope upward, get the picture?  Let’s hope they’re right!  Ultimately I find this kind of exercise less convincing than I used to, instead preferring a broader theory that also accounts for what I perceive to be a growing disorientation.  Which brings us to the next title…

 Slavoj ŽižekHegel in a Wired Brain.  How do transhumanism, Elon Musk/Neuralink, the Singularity, Book of Genesis, and Hegel all fit together?  There is only one person who could pull off such a book, noting this version is dense and not for the uninitiated.  Here is one squib: “Police is closer to civil society than state; it is a kind of representative of state in civil society, but for this very reason it has to be experienced as an external force, not an inner ethical power.”  If you take away all the people who quite overrate him, Žižek is in fact remarkably underrated.

       Martin Amis' Inside Story is now out -- get your copy at or -- and the reviews and profiles keep coming -- including now Amis taking his turn answering The New York Times Book Review's By the Book-column question. 
       Among the quotes:
I like fiction that makes me welcome, and I’m quickly exasperated by the freakish, the introverted and above all the compulsively obscure. For months now I’ve been trying to penetrate the bristling bastion of William Faulkner. He is like Joyce — all genius and no talent; he just isn’t interested in pushing the narrative forward. Well, I suppose his readers have enough to do anyway, trying to establish who is who and what (if anything) is going on.
       (He has used that genius/no talent line before; see for example this 2012 Bookforum interview, where he said of Nabokov's great late novel: "I mean Ada or Ardor is all genius and no talent. It's impossible to read, it's like Finnegan's Wake[sic]. And it's been used elsewhere, back to Henry David Thoreau.) 
       Also fun to hear:
I used to regard “nonfiction” as a genre, and a minor one, like children’s books; now of course it consumes every spare moment