Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Dense, Difficult-- and Dead

From the 12/16 issue of New York Review of Books.

There's a review by John Banville of the latest book by John Updike, that moldy, most perfectly realized symbol of establishment literary taste. Banville quotes a long and overly detailed sentence of Updike's, then remarks, "No one else I know of, simply no one, writes this well." Which calls into question what the establishment means by writing well. Boring the reader? Constructing ornate sentences nice to admire as museum art objects? This is the art appreciation crowd.

The issue also contains a review by Caroline Fraser of a book by 74 year-old novelist Maureen Howard (one of the newer members of the NY Review's pantheon). Fraser admits Ms. Howard's novel is "this most bookish of books. . . . Dense, difficult--" but concludes it "can be read with admiration." We're back at the museum, caretakers cleaning away the cobwebs and dust.

Finally I'll give you a quote from an essay by Keith Gessen: "In Sorokin's case, the resistance to being readable also followed from his hostility to the very idea of literature."

The lit-establishment's IDEA of literature is hostile to the survival of literature.

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