Three to Go or the Vast Indifference of Heaven

24 Jun

The popularity of aggregators on the Internet is a function of the exponential growth of websites and weblogs that can make some minimal claim for the value of their existence. The key problem is still, of course, the same. Who are you going to trust? Value? Believe? Arts and Letters Daily still functions as a useful albeit predictable survey of,uh, arts and letters. Beyond that are the muddy and choppy waters patrolled by media Frankensteins, The Daily Beast, Huffington Post, Bloomberg View and Newser. Good luck with that.Which should lead you to conclude that,yeah, its up to you baby. And no one else.

You probably missed New Urbanist and novelist James Howard Kunstler‘s “Back to The Future” in the new issue of Orionmagazine. Kunstler’s The Long Emergency is must reading for anyone interested in a thoughtful account of the End of the Oil Era. This article is a more refined articulation of Kunstler’s prognosis but, for instance, he is still predicting that cities like Phoenix and Las Vegas are going to dry up and blow away.If you can stand fun and provocation, have at more of Kunstler at his web journal Clusterfuck Nation.

For some reason I was thinking about Stuart Dybek last week and happily, I received the newest issue of A Public Space</em> (#13) which contained a new novella, Four Deuces, by the Northwestern University mentor. Its been a while since I have seen new fiction from favorite son of Chicago, Dybek, so this is, of course, a pleasing discovery.

Anyone who reads and/or is engaged in literary journalism and criticism must be ambivalent and conflicted about the value of book reviews. I have occasionally that reviews (at least as presented in most American periodicals ) are products of a degraded enterprise. And occasionally I have even presented some arguments for this opinion—but not now.

n+1 a regularly interesting literary journal offers a bagatelle, Against Reviews by one Elizabeth Gumport which offers evidence of impressive erudition on the matter of the history of book reviews and some clever provocation. To whit:

Forced to smuggle thoughts of value into the small spaces between plot summary and biographical detail, reviewers accomplish next to nothing. Nobody tells them the truth, which is that compromises cannot be unmade and that every book read is another left unread. If more experienced authors admitted that reviews were pointless and boring—as unread as they are unreadable—who would review their books? Like hazing, reviewing is inflicted by the old and popular on the young and weak, who are told that before they can succeed at their chosen pursuit they must endure certain traditional trials.

Obviously, I have some time on my hands —reading meta criticism of the likes of Ms Gumpert has little or no real world application. But it is my idea of some passing fun.

Uh huh.

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One Response to “Three to Go or the Vast Indifference of Heaven”

  1. Edward Champion June 24, 2011 at 11:41 pm #

    I’ve got to leave the house, but Gumport’s piece reads to me a more polemical, less astute, and less sympathetic version of George Orwell’s “Confessions of a Book Reviewer”:

    http://www.george-orwell.org/Confessions_of_a_Book_Reviewer/0.html

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