Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Another Comment on Postmodernism

Sara Nelson of Publishers Weekly made an apologia on her blog for David Foster Wallace, admitting his work is "difficult" for readers but that it's the job of publishers to search for and present such work-- presumably because of its high quality. This shows that the monopoly publishing industry is fundamentally flawed, flawed at its very foundations: its understanding of what is or isn't art.

Nelson mistakes information for art. Foster Wallace filled his books with huge chunks of information and words, to the extent they're impressive feats. But what has this to do with art?

Anyone can cobble together a mass of sentences, chapter by chapter, until there are enough to fill a thick volume. "Difficult," yes. Inscrutable, for the most part, fit for academic monks in dusty libraries to pore over in mad quests for purpose and sense. Fine, it's been done. But this isn't literature, or rather, it's a very obscure branch of literature, extending into rarefied air. It's not how literature is going to grab and hold a new audience, which can be done only with clarity, passion, movement, excitement-- the pounding pulses of readers frantically turning pages of books in enthrallment to plot, characters, color, and enlightenment spoken by a captivating voice, presenting work and a world open to all.

That the purveyors of books today at the highest levels don't understand this is both tragedy AND farce.
*****************************
Sara Nelson of Publishers Weekly, a well-educated literary person, admits she couldn't finish David Foster Wallace's Infinite Jest. Yet at the same time she believes this is the kind of product which should be presented to the American public.

Think if Nelson were an executive at an auto company. She presents a complex, high-tech marvel which doesn't run. The first 43 pages of the owner's manual are devoted to how to put the key into the ignition, footnotes included. The vehicle is not user-friendly, but to Sara Nelson of the Dinosaur Motor Company that's not the point.

Few people will want the car and those few who do will be a select group. Like Nelson, they'll buy the car not to drive it, but to park it on display, permanently, in their driveways. The point is the car's overcomplexity, unwieldiness, and artificial status.

6 comments:

scofflaw said...

Good come back KING.
You've pondered among the ruins and thought things threw to the next battle and lo! you find yourself deep into the enemy mind on your own solid ground.
The Pantacle elemental weapon of the earth is my favorite too-- a place to stand to be grounded now your on to something again perhaps the Academy the very halls of highered learning need to be crashed. Take the mtn. to Mohammed, etc.
You know Joyce remarked that Finnegan's Wake would keep lit scholars and citics busy for a thousand years, that they would create a virtual "industry". Thing is that Joyce3 saw what could happen and booby trapped modernist literature as regauds the Academy and the very industry post- pest- modurnizm is as if Joyce impishly rather than Christ like like he was telling us to beware of false profits and sweat shops MFA pogroms
as they disconnect even from the unconscious of the modern regular people and are onto him and real lit anti-joyces and anathema!
Yes a misanthrope and cynic like Derrida did think that a monkey given enough time could accidentally bang out The Heart Is A Lonely Hunter simply because he hated natural genius, ie the social reality the great unalligned writer for and of a peoples' culture and language is inspired with and by. Think how much the masters and money lenders fauning over poor DFW hate say Joyce. Do we ever hear about it? Or even Carver who could have bloomed into another Fitzgerald I think if the editors didn't screw him out of that?
What about Nabakov any action need to be taken on that related subject since methinks there's been some kind of Lollita anniverasary?

King said...

Thanks, Frank.
p.s. I was waylaid on the streets of downtown Detroit by a camera crew earlier today, asking my opinion of the Vice-Prez debate. The station was WDIV, I think. I don't know if it'll run tomorrow or today. I'm sure I come across as a geek.

King said...

p.p.s. One has to wonder at the kind of brainwashing people like Sara Nelson receive to be able to rave about a product they themselves can't even read, simply because it's SUPPOSED to be great because, well, everybody (others like them) say so. Talk about a cattle herd mentality!
Hans Anderson's "Emperor's Clothes" metaphor remains relevant, more than ever.

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