Thursday, September 10, 2009

Close Calls with Nonsense

I have a review of Stephen Burt's Close Calls with Nonsense up at The Critical Flame. There is also a review by Richard Nash (formerly the publisher of Soft Skull Press) of The Late Age of Print and a review of Pynchon's Inherent Vice.

Close Calls with Nonsense is a collection of essays about poetry; Burt is a professor at Harvard and writes often in The Believer, The Boston Review, and many other places about contemporary poetry. I found the collection valuable in many ways, as I was introduced to some poets and to some poems that appeal to me greatly. Yet I was not convinced that what I saw as Burt's underlying agenda—to identify how readers can trust poetry and how critics can help them do that—was brought off successfully. I greatly appreciate, however, that focus—the question of trust is not one that is often raised explicitly, perhaps because it is so open to individual, even idiosyncratic, definition. Burt offers one idea that I like very much, and I was glad to have found it. Also (something I did not mention in the review), don't try to read Stephen Burt's book in the position indicated on the cover: the additional bloodflow only makes your eyes feel weird; it does not make your synapses fire faster or anything.

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About Infinite Summer: I'm still running on time with Infinite Jest; I wanted to accelerate past the official timetable, but… you know how that goes. At any rate, I'm hoping to get a post out about Schtitt and tennis philosophy, and then a wrap-up post when I finish. I am really finding every storyline enjoyable at this point; Orin has disappeared for what seems like the last 300 pages, but I certainly don't begrudge the time spent with Gately and Hal. I also find that the novel reads much more smoothly now: Wallace seems to have understood that if you're still reading, you've probably been sufficiently impressed by his intellect, so he doesn't need to interject non-functional demonstrations of his brilliance periodically.

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