Sunday, July 7, 2013

Why Must Everything Have A Title?

I have, I know, posted almost not at all over the last month plus.  This is because I've had, in a way, too much in my head to put it out.  And then again the medium, the blog, it's not ideal.  It's far worse than not ideal, really.  It's quite unsatisfactory.  And I, too, am unsatisfactory.  More than unsatisfactory, insignificant.  So I feel less and less inclined to impose--or seek to impose--my insignificance upon the world.  Or, rather, the minor subset of the world which constitutes my readers.

But I'm having some difficulties.  Let's say only that.  Let's not devolve into self pity and the rending of clothes, or even the rending of pretend clothes.  Let's not do that.  So I'm going to locate myself in the familiar and banal, which is safe--or safe enough.

And in that world, the familiar and undangerous, I'll say a few small things about what I've been reading and viewing.  To wit: 1) Chabon's Kavalier and Clay very much lived up to all its hype.  I highly recommend it to anyone who likes a good--a great--book.  In a Martin Amis review of Updike he says something to the effect that, reading his first Updike novel he has the sensation--the unpleasant and regrettable sensation--that "now I'm going to have to read everything he ever wrote."  I understand completely what he means.  And this is how I feel about Chabon.  Every time I read a new piece of his, I am again reminded that I need to just get on with reading everything he ever wrote.  Because he's worth that time.

Old John Williams, the New York intellectual, put me in the way of The End of Vandalism by Tom Drury.  And that was very very funny.  He was right, that intellectual Brooklynite.  Worth a read.

I've found a website--for which I surely SHOULD provide a link--in which you sort of..toggle various adjectives (funny/sad/erotic/serious) and adjust them, really, to various degrees... (i.e.: adjust 'funny' to..not at all funny, or to very funny, or whatever) and based on the degrees that have been toggled, book recommendations are produced.  I could easily find the link, I'm sure, but I'm not going to.  Anyway, the first book it spat out was "The Ask" by Sam Lipsyte.  Who seems to be a rising cougar, in the great savannas of the night.  But, no, I say--no.  The Ask is yet another example of an artifact which substitutes cynicism for wisdom.  It's a snide fried dough pie of trite Brooklyn intelligensia despair.  If it were to be burned at the stake--and such it surely deserves--the stake in question should be best a cheap, East Texas pine.  Certainly nothing like cherry, or mahogany.


Subliminal Gary said...

This is the Dunning-Kruger effect.

No relation to Brian or Freddy.

JMW said...

Glad you enjoyed the Drury. I read the Chabon a few years ago and didn't quite understand why people love it so much. It's certainly well-made, but it just didn't inspire love in me. I don't know why. I'm defective, no doubt.

I won't forcefully disagree with you about Lipsyte, but I do think you would find Home Land very funny. He's a good writer. Just mostly driven by a caustic kind of humor.

JMW said...

Glad you enjoyed the Drury. I read Kavalier & Clay several years ago and didn't quite understand why people love it so much. It was certainly well-made, it just didn't inspired love in me. I'm defective, no doubt.

I won't forcefully disagree with your assessment of Lipsyte, but I do think you'd get a kick out of Home Land. He can actually write, though it's true that a kind of caustic humor is his greatest strength and the thing that lingers from his books.

I just read Graham Greene for the first time (End of the Affair). Do you have strong opinions? I liked it a lot and will investigate more of him...

Cartooniste said...

What's going on, ANCIANT?

My husband, you will not be surprised to learn, has a colossal man-crush on Michael Chabon. I think he blames me for not yet coming up with a way to be friends with him. I try to explain that I'm not actually that friendly, but it doesn't fly.

ANCIANT said...

Gary--I honestly have no idea what that means. What is the Dunning Kruger effect? Is that real? Or have I missed a very obvious joke?

JMW--I guess I thought the caustic humor was mostly not that funny. But I might give him another try. I think you are wrong about Chabon. His pieces for NYRB are always great and all the books of his I've read have impressed me tremendously. The rare writer who manages to be both entertaining and literary--who writes with a great gift for language without letting the craft of making sentences overtake the demands of plot. So, Cartooniste, I support your husband's man-crush.

Dezmond said...

Blogs are not imposing anything upon anyone for the simple reason that people choose to go and read them or they do not. I want your opinions forced upon me, which is why I check in here regularly. I just wish your opinions were forced upon me on a more regular basis. Not as bad as JMW's blog, though. His last post was in 1985.

All of you are wrong about Chabon.