Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Links for the Holidays

I promise there will be real content on this blog again soon, but I just got done writing my papers for the term, and so this will have to suffice for now.
  • John Self is one of the absolute paragons of lit-blogging, in my mind. Here's his year-in-reading list, containing a few books I already had on my to-read pile for next year, and adding a few more.
  • Manohla Dargis's NYT article on the glass ceiling for aspiring women directors has been linked to in many places, as has her follow-up interview with Jezebel, but if you haven't run into them, definitely read the Jezebel interview, as I find she articulates certain things more clearly there, like why she's bothered that one flop from a woman director (Kathryn Bigelow's K19: Widowmaker) can sink her chances of helming another film for a few years, while a male director like Michael Mann (whom I and she love, but who has delivered a string of modestly underperforming films) seems to have no trouble finding the funding for another lavishly unorthodox action film.
  • Dan Green revisits Jonathan Littell's The Kindly Ones, which, as you may recall, claimed a large chunk of my reading life early this year (1, 2, 3, 4). Green is at least as enthusiastic about the book's achievement as I am, although I think it's fair to say that we see very different reasons to celebrate it.
  • Mark Athitakis talks about the "hard trick" of pulling off a comic novel that has, in FSG editor Lorin Stein's words, "great or serious" intent. Stein's argument—that stand-up comedians have ruined the game by debasing the project of mixing humor and social criticism—comes in the context of introducing Sam Lipsyte's new novel The Ask, which The Quarterly Conversation praised sky-high. Athitakis questions Stein's cultural history, and goes on to point out some of the many examples of comic novels with serious cultural-critical intent. Athitakis argues that the genre has not so much died out as it has always been tough to fulfill. I agree, and I'm excited to read Lipsyte's new novel, as I loved Home Land, his last.
  • Richard Crary has been on a great blogging spree of late, and I particularly liked this post on the foolishness of claiming to "understand" a writer (or even just a book) and this one on "modernization and its discontents." Best of all, though, is one from the beginning of this month on 'modernism against modernity.' I may try to get some thoughts together in response, although I'll need to do a little more research.
  • Shelley Ettinger makes a great multi-post argument for the importance of Joyce Carol Oates (1, 2, 3). I've only read Black Water, and I get the sense that I will have a similar reaction to many of her novels: not entirely on board aesthetically, but absolutely fascinated by the ideas. I should be reading another one soon—suggestions would be welcome.
  • Scott McLemee's review of two new biographies of Ayn Rand displays his usual brilliance; he places her in a position many would never think to look for her: in world literature, meaning not so much that she belongs to a global pantheon of wonderful writers but that she is the product of what Marx and Engels predicted would arise—a literature enabled by and disseminated by the global adventures of capitalism. Also, fans of Bolaño, check out McLemee's interview with Marcela Valdes, whose essay introduces the accurately named The Last Interview and Other Conversations.
  • A long but extraordinary interview with David Simon in Vice Magazine. (Also, I may have linked this before or seen it linked, but this is an hilarious interview with Harold Bloom, also from Vice.)
  • A "passion for nuance" sounds rather like an oxymoron, but David Bordwell's appreciation of the late Robin Wood make him sound like a wonderful film critic. Bordwell states that F. R. Leavis was an influence, although the following makes me wonder how much that could have been possible in anything but style: "For nearly four decades Wood recorded his efforts to grasp the concrete social implications behind the films he loved and those, increasingly from Hollywood, he found evasive and duplicitous. In all, complacent acceptance of the status quo was the enemy of the seriousness he prized." In fact, that sounds rather diametrically opposite Leavis.
  • An intriguing post about the genre of Avatar. I'm really undecided about going to see the film; I'm not terribly interested in the film itself, but I'm kind of fascinated by how much conversation it has evoked.

1 comment:

aaron said...

I vomited out through my brain after watching Avatar, which will shortly manifest in a spate of blogging, but I also couldn't not see it. It's sort of the most perfectly realized Teddy Roosevelt's America fantasy ever. Join the conversation!