Saturday, January 13, 2007

One Week Rant Contest

First Edition.

Subject: John Updike.

The best rant posted on this thread about the subject wins.

Deadline: One week from now.

Entries: Acceptable from everyone, even Demi-Puppets. Post as many rants as you want.

The Contest begins NOW.


Brooklyn Frank said...

Interesting John Updike quote: "The founding fathers in their wisdom decided that children were an unnatural strain on their parents. So they provided jails called school, equipped with tortures called education."

King said...

Yes, but now students are being forced to read his books!
(I may have to dig up an old rant about Updike from New Philistine, to show how it's done.)
p.s. I have available fo the winner some gift certificates good for Jr. Frostys at Wendy's restaurants in southeast PA, NJ, and New York City; 79 cent value per coupon.
(More contests will be following, so be prepared.)

Victor Schwartzman said...

How about, instead, having a rant contest about Judith Reagan, Rupert Murdoch and OJ Simpson?

Brooklyn Frank said...

True, it's somewhat ironic.

James Joyce Is the Greatest Writer... Ever said...

Ugh, Updike is perhaps the most overrated writer in the last 50 years. next to Saul Bellow. At least Bellow had one good novel (The Victim). Updike has never impressed me. After his last effort (Terrorist), I think it is about time for him to hang up the pen, typewriter, or whatever the hell he uses. He is terrible. His oeuvre is not worthy of being in the same library system as a Joyce novel.

King said...

James Joyce so far is leading this thing.
John Updike is such an utterly boring writer that he's probably not worth ranting about or mocking. Nobody cares. Francine Prose gets more reaction. Updike's cultural influence is zero.
Esquire did an interview recently with another dead literary relic, Norman Mailer, who is now just a memory of the real Norman Mailer of fifty years ago.
Updike, who many people don't know is still alive, is waiting for his own Esquire interview, not realizing that in influence Esquire today is one-fiftieth of the magazine it was fifty years ago. Like Mailer, what remains of it is only the memory of the reputation.
Updike has not even that, because he was always a boring writer, an overrated stiff of endless verbiage and no personality whatsoever. There's nothing to remember.
Propped-up today in the New Yorker offices, saved in a glass museum case as their one signal glory. Formaldehyde at the ready for when he goes in reality.
Maybe we'll stop by their mummy cases tomorrow to say hi.

Wred Fright said...

Updike's Rabbit books are good. They sort of capture the feel of the decades they're set in. Nothing else of his has ever really grabbed me though. The Terrorist novel sounded particularly dreadful. Rabbit Redux isn't the first novel in the series but if you think Updike stinks, give it a go and you might reconsider that sentiment.

Jeff Potter said...

For myself I say that the practice of saying "writer x sucks" is lame.

It's not what the ULA is known for. And I note that we see this kind of whining about writers in the blogosphere mostly from nonULAers.

One has to give specific reasons why someone is good, bad or noteworthy. And also why the reasons matter.

(As King did with that F. Prose lady recently.)

Someone's likes or dislikes have no relevance. Opinions are a bit embarrassing. We need evidence!

As I've said many other times, I think that an objective reviewing method is best. Or such datapoints at least needs to be included in any review to make it meaningful.

One fairly judges a writer by what he attempts in his work; how much he succeeded versus how hard the challenge was; if the challenge was relevant; then you note if another writer meets the same challenge better and then comment on how much room there is in the challenge area. See?

Of course there's plenty of room for critical judgement, but I think it should be about finding specifics to discuss.

James Joyce Is the Greatest Writer... Ever said...

I would disagree. This is not philosophy, literary art is highly subjective. My name is a perfect example of that. It's dangerous to try to have hyper-objectivity. Literature does not exist in a vacuum. For example, a conservitive, red-state Christian may be a perfectly legitimate reviewer, but he may have difficulty reviewing lit-fic with gay and erotic themes. He can try to be objective all he wants, but his worldview will color the review, as it should. If literature is supposed to have a subjective message (from the author) then the reader is allowed to have a subjective response. If I'm reading fiction with a message of "round up the jews" simply mentioning the fact that it had beautiful prose and proper paragraphing is going to seem frivolous.

Then again I am a believer in attacking the artist as well as the art.

Jeff Potter said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Jeff Potter said...

[Whups, I mangled my quote-carrots. I'll try again...]

>literary art is highly subjective.

So? How does that dilute the importance of (stated) intent, content, details?

Are you saying that the common practice of demipuppets of saying "He's boring" or "He sucks" or dismissing with quips, has value? There's nothing more subjective than a whim, after all, right? Ah, but don't whims thinly veil specific orientations of said quipsters? (Kissing up to arbiters being among the commonest transparent motives.) The details behind meaning aren't that hard to find.

>It's dangerous to try to have

What's that? I didn't suggest that.

>Literature does not exist in a vacuum.

Include set and setting or reviewer bio if you like, if you have space. You can probably get the job done without it, though. It's more important to mention a specific of the book and its intent and place in the scheme of things. But, really, a reviewer's KNOWLEDGE is what counts. What can he tell us, what does he know---about how a book fits, what it's attempting, what it achieves. He gives evidence for his conclusions.

>For example, a conservitive, red-state
>Christian may be a perfectly legitimate
>reviewer, but he may have difficulty
>reviewing lit-fic with gay and erotic
>themes. He can try to be objective all
>he wants, but his worldview will color
>the review, as it should.

Who cares about an opion about difficulty. If one knows what they're talking about, and gives details, they can readily cover the important basics from any point of view. An editor would probably chop out whatever part of his review hurts its usefulness. A real editor anyway---not a smirking imitator.

>If literature is supposed to have a
>subjective message (from the author)
>then the reader is allowed to have a
>subjective response.

Sure. But what's that worth to the public? Nada. I mean, keep it to yourself. Unless you can explain it. With details. A book has CONTENT, after all. It's about something, from somewhere. It has a mission, intent, background, fits into a scheme of things.

>If I'm reading fiction with a message of
>"round up the jews" simply mentioning
>the fact that it had beautiful prose and
>proper paragraphing is going to seem

Then that might be a bad review. I did say that only relevant details were important, after all, and gave examples of what I meant: what was intent, what is the background...

No one cares about style and plot anymore anyway. They've been done to death. It's from a bygone period. We've watched the emphasis on style rise and now hit the ground with a splat. A good reviewer would give the dates. A good reviewer today leans on what matters: "Does he have anything to say?" Ah, but unfortunately our good reviewer doesn't get to see print, does he. Ha. That motto reminds me of that Bob Dylan bio-pic. Wasn't that what people asked about artists in the 60's: "What's he got to say?" It's back in style again. NYC just hasn't caught on.

King said...

I happen to disagree with some of what Mr. Potter says. Oh well.
Joyce gets the nod with a not very strong performance.
Though pretty good I guess for a dead guy.