Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Still Waiting

I’m still waiting for someone anyone to explain the David Foster Wallace story, “A New Examiner,” in the September Harpers magazine.


In the same issue, Insider novelist Jonathan Dee, another advocate of a dying art pontificating in an all-but-dead magazine, makes a statement to the effect of “A novel is a record of consciousness.” Here we have a clue to the problem. It’s a narrow way to treat what had once been a great art form. Dee makes the statement in an essay which discusses recently dead quack French novelist Robbe-Grillet. Anyone care to read DFW’s tale, all you DFW fans, and use it to expand on Jonathan Dee’s statement?

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

A Challenge

David Foster Wallace is the highest god of today’s literary world. In their September issue, Harpers magazine has published a story of his, “The New Examiner,” possibly an excerpt from a larger work. Apparently (Wallace was very prolific) they had a lot of manuscript to choose from, and this is what they came up with. I’ve invited an anonymous professor who’s been posting here to explain the story to us. I extend the Challenge to all of Wallace’s many fans. What makes the story so wonderful? What about the story qualifies its author as a genius? Why is this writer your model? What does that portend for literature? 

Monday, August 23, 2010

The Literary Model

We have an example of what the literary world lauds in the September Harpers magazine, with a story by David Foster Wallace titled “The New Examiner.” This is their product. This is what they sell. How good is it?

It’s like going into an auto showroom and buying a vehicle with many piled-on extras but which doesn’t run.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Deportation Update

No word yet on efforts by the literary establishment to have me exiled back to Outer Mongolia. The truth is that I was indeed born in a desolate foreign country: Detroit!

The Pack Mentality

It took me a long while to realize what I was dealing with in my attempts to budge the literary mainstream. Winning arguments doesn’t work with them. I’ve won 95% of the arguments with established lit folk I’ve engaged in. During my days in the ULA, after we beat the Paris Review in debate at CBGB’s in 2001, they refused to engage us—except behind the scenes under false identities.

The established literary scene is a herd which judges works and writers based on their conformity to what’s already in place. The ONLY thing they respect is strength. The ULA made headway when we exhibited strength. The minute we moderated and relied on reason and argument, which was all on our side, we were no longer an unstoppable force and our fortunes declined.

The professor engaging me in the comments on the previous thread is upset because I don’t buy into his/her view of literature. I hold a different view. This is intolerable. I’m supposed to like THEIR books, to laud THEIR icons, to agree 100% with THEIR taste. They hold the cover of Time magazine—itself a relic—so they must be right. Yet the reality is that literary mandarins offer a distorted version of American literature not applicable to the times and the broader society. Their philosophical and aesthetic foundation is skewed, and so the castle of art they’ve built upon it is slanted and tottery. Their chief god, David Foster Wallace, had many strengths, sure, but his idiosyncratic work isn’t fit to lead an art form seeking to compete in this hectic society. That lit folks can’t immediately see this is a sign of the depth of the problem. But then, they believe only in what the herd tells them to believe.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

"Time" in Trouble

Has anyone noted the air of panic at Time magazine? It's evident throughout their August 23 print issue.

We have Joel Stein writing a piece titled "Bring on the Elites!" Stein thinks America should be an aristocracy run by grads of Harvard and Yale, as it pretty much is now. He coyly admits this is how the intelligentsia sees the world. The admission and defense of elitism is in reaction to current populist noise. Elsewhere in the issue, James Poniewozik admits he's a liberal and hysterically feigns to be under hysterical attack. Last and least, in the issue's cover story, Lev Grossman proclaims novelist Jonathan Franzen, he of an ill-gotten NEA grant the same time he was making a million bucks, a populist. Franzen as populist is absurd. Well, he may be one within the tiny and very narrow world of establishment letters, but nowhere else. Jonathan Franzen is from, and writes exclusively about, the upper class. Though he's a self-designated Marxist, he knows nothing about working people. What he knows about America at all could be put into a thimble. If he's ever had a job in his life, it was decades ago. A populist! Say it as loud as you want, it doesn't work. The world of Time is on its way out.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Exchange with a Prof

THE most esteemed professor of film studies in America, Leo Braudy, the voice of the critical establishment on the topic, has already weighed in about the thesis of my new blog. Read his remarks at


My task is to make the argument for “El Cid” a living argument. 

Friday, August 13, 2010

The El Cid Project


Yes, I have a new blog up. I'm not completely sure where I'm going with it. I just know that the classic 1961 movie "El Cid" is extremely relevant to the world situation, and so a blog about the movie is extremely timely.

Literary Breakdancing

A major difference between my ideas about fiction, and those of the literary elite, is how we approach the sentence. I see the sentence as simply one step which is part of a step-by-step journey. The point is the movement toward a goal, and the sights seen along the path. The literary elite, on the other hand, value the sentence as an end in itself.

I want the reader to proceed along an interesting block in a colorful neighborhood. The people and curiosities you see make up the experience. I also want to get you to the destination-- where a conclusion or surprise may await-- before the sun sets, the shops and saloons close, and the characters head inside to sleep.

The literary writer is preoccupied with each individual step. He pauses every few feet to engage in a flourish of breakdancing. This might be exciting once or twice, but soon enough becomes monotonous. Besides, he never sees anything outside his concern with his own stepping, and he never gets anyplace.

For the literary writer, as always, it's about himself.

Academic Film Criticism

For several reasons, academic film criticism is biased toward the obscure and the constipated. Part of it is due to the elitist background of the profs and the secluded environment within which they work and live. A stronger reason is that it's how they justify their jobs. It makes little sense for them to show films widely seen on Turner Classic Movies. They go instead toward movies the vast proportion of their students would not have seen, usually European filmmakers named Malle, Godard, Herzog, Bergman, and so on. The important thing to know about the movies raved about is that they're not very good. Students graduate overvaluing either A.) editing virtuosity, which has only a tangential relationship to the depth and power of real art; B.) pseudo-intellectualism.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Two Movies

The character Ferris Bueller in “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” is very appealing. He’s also a kid who’s spent his life getting over on authority figures. One can see his future: banker on Wall Street or similar; a career of “getting over” on people and the world. Such persons often come, like Ferris, from affluent backgrounds. They’ve been indulged by well-meaning parents who’ve made them the center of the universe. Do we really think their focus will shift once they leave high school?

(Parenthetically, the Billionaire Boys Club which the ULA conflicted with is of this ilk. Though they’re the most indulged of writers—because they are- “Me, me, me, I, I, I,” remains their credo.)

The flip side to this is Joel McCrae’s aging lawman in “Ride the High Country.” He has nothing to show for a lifetime of work. The world has gotten over on him. His concern is his character—to be able to enter his house “justified.” For much of the film he’s a quaint, almost comical figure. Yet when crunch time hits, it’s to him that the two young people flee, not to the more engaging and larcenous character played by Randolph Scott. 

Monday, August 09, 2010


Cultural change won't come from the intellectual elite. It will therefore have to come from somewhere else.

Friday, August 06, 2010

The Hearse Ride

"The Magnificent Seven" depicts vigorous liberalism. The hearse ride near the beginning is a suspenseful and exciting sequence, grounded in reality, surrounded with humanity. We see gawkers following the hearse, including the three Mexican villagers who've come north to buy guns. We see Chico following also.

"I have to see this," a stage driver says. The townsmen don't know what will happen-- and neither do we! They're the audience. They're us. Afterward, the reaction of the salesman whose decency initiated the matter is perfectly genuine. Again, if we're not too jaded by having seen too many lesser movies, that's our reaction.

More important, the sequence establishes the character of Chris, and sets up the rest of the movie. Who is this guy? This "Cajun" is an atypical Western hero in that he's short, looks and talks different, is of uncertain ethnicity in an environment announced to us as blatantly racist. Why does Chris drive the hearse? For the hell of it? Or is something else going on within him, and within the movie?

Chris is the moral center of the movie. This is established in this early sequence and maintained throughout. Others are drawn to him because of his moral authority. He's a man of conscience. (Different but comparable to the Joel McCrae character in "Ride the High Country.") Chris is himself an underdog. Chico idolizes him for his demonstrated courage and ability. The three villagers see more in him. Not that he's a man of tolerance-- but that he's a man INtolerant of injustice.

Because Chris stood up against racist townfolk, he's a man they "can trust."

"The Magnificent Seven" is not quite the standard white-man-rescues-Third-World scenario, because the Seven, in different ways, are themselves underdogs.

Anyway, the hearse ride is a wonderful sequence; wonderful for its vigor, its conscience, its realistic humanity.

Tuesday, August 03, 2010