Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Seals of Approval: February

The best articles/posts I read last month:
  • A measured consideration of middlebrow culture via the new Animal Collective album, Meriweather Pavilion. Simply as a review of the album, it's a great piece, but it also has acute things to say about just what it means to make it not big, but medium: "It's a risky business for a band to move from relative unpopularity towards the edge of the mainstream. Their original following, seeing their stock about to get devalued by new fans, may be tempted to dump it and latch on to some new buzz band. Semi-popularity in some ways is a weak place to be situated: you're not going to be the Beatles, you're probably not even going to be Radiohead, and since the difference between having 100,000 fans and 10,000 isn't really that significant (in the grand scheme of things), why not keep your music 'pure'?"

  • I'm not allowing myself to read Aaron Bady's posts on The Wire yet, since I am only just finishing Season 3 and don't want to spoil any surprises from the last two seasons, but check out his recent series of posts: "Printing the Legend of the Western," "On Suction," "[Also] On Suction," and "Contra David Simon."

  • William Deresiewicz captured an important part of Bolaño very well in his review of 2666: "The figure of the detective remained for him the master metaphor of his enterprise. The writer was someone who could throw off fear, return to the scene of the crime and figure out the truth. Indeed, discovery happens much more frequently in his novels than we expect. Missing people are found, criminals are punished. Yet at the same time, often in the same act, the larger meanings slip through our hands."

  • Scott McLemee's coverage of recently published academic books is one of the real treasures of the internet. On his Intellectual Affairs column, he pulls out consistently fascinating subjects and makes them even more interesting. I don't know how many books he must have to read to find the gems he displays, but he always has something fairly obscure but tremendously intriguing to write about. Here is a recent example, on Liberty Hyde Bailey.

  • My favorite find of the month: Widmerpool's Modern Library Revue, a blog by an antiquarian bookseller who is reading the whole Modern Library Top 100 Novels list (and branching out occasionally), who prefaced her first post with "I am not a big deal, and I probably don’t know what I am talking about." I wish all bloggers (including myself) knew as little—the commentary is really entertaining and sharp. (E.g. "Iris Murdoch is strange and wonderful. She also wrote so many novels that if you are in the mood to read something by her, there is probably a fresh one available. It’s like having a harem wherein all the inmates are related to one another and look alike, yet retain sterling qualities of their own. She probably wrote a book where that happens, too. ")

  • Richard Crary's post "Thoughts Prompted by Reading A Room of One's Own" was gracefully reflective and moving; it certainly strikes the tone I wish I could manage when conducting a self-analysis-by-blog, a hazardous and usually foolish enterprise, but clearly one which can be ably done, as Richard shows.


Widmerpool said...

Thank you so very much for your endorsement of Widmerpool's ML Revue! I am glad that you are enjoying it and I hope I can keep it up. Just so that no one labors under any misapprehensions, I should say that I am not an actual antiquarian bookseller. I have worked for one for the past couple of years, so I am very new to the trade. I do hope to stay in it for the foreseeable, though. Carry on!

zunguzungu said...

Cheers! By the way, don't let people tell you season five is the worst; I think it's the most interesting precisely because it's the least satisfying. Ore something. On the other hand. season three into season four... that's the home stretch. Enjoy!