One Time For Your Mind

1. Buy the Lighthouse. The scenic spot that inspired Virginia Woolf’s To The Lighthouse is for sale.

2. I’m not sure if “crying for help” counts as a business model, but I know Archipelago Books is worth helping. I’ve enjoyed several of their titles in the last few years. Here’s their appeal.

3. From Kenyon Review, Cody Walker on Paul Auster and Nathaniel Hawthorne.

4. Pulling Thomas Mann’s Magic Mountain Off the Shelf (something I ought to do myself) by Maud Newton.

5. Harold Augenbraum has posted an enthusiastic appreciation of John O’Hara‘s 1956 National Book Award winning novel Ten North Frederick, which is, incredibly, out of print. This is part of a National Book Awards retrospective.

6. Something about Twitter and Gogol. No, not Google. Gogol.

7. The South Carolina Post and Courier reveals that it maintains a book-reviewing policy from the 19th Century.

8. Check out Backward Books, a small collective of self-published authors (including Kristen Tsetsi, a good indie writer).

9. Wag’s Revue is a worthy new literary publication.

10. The Florida Review features poet Eamon Grennan.

11. From Narrative, James Salter on Isaac Babel.

12. Exit Vector is a new “wovel” by Simon Drax, presented by Underland Press.

13. And, one more time for postmodernism: here’s a fun and well-designed list from Jacket Copy of 61 classic postmodern books. But I must still complain that here, as in so many discussions of postmodernism, there is no real differentiation between modernism and postmodernism. For instance, one of the indicators on this list is that a work of fiction “disrupts/plays with form”. I’m pretty sure that’s a mark of modernism.

Still, you can learn a lot from this list. My favorite novels from the selection: Paul Auster’s New York Trilogy, Nicholson Baker’s The Mezzanine, Roberto Bolano’s 2666 (though I honestly haven’t read much of it yet), Italo Calvino’s If On A Winter’s Night A Traveler, William S. Burroughs’ Naked Lunch, Jorge Luis Borges’ Labyrinth, Franz Kafka’s Metamorphosis (though this is modern, not postmodern), Steven Milhauser’s Edwin Mulhouse, Tom McCarthy’s Remainder, Art Spiegelman’s Maus, Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse Five.

Some works that should be on the list but aren’t: Jack Kerouac’s On The Road (what could be more postmodern than Kerouac’s brew of Joycean free-writing and hipster/jazz slang?), Richard Brautigan’s In Watermelon Sugar, Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s Love in the Time of Cholera, William Kotzwinkle’s The Fan Man, John Irving’s World According to Garp, Rick Moody’s The Ice Storm, Orhan Pamuk’s Snow. We should probably also find room for Salman Rushdie, Yukio Mishima, Ann Beattie, Raymond Carver … hell, I’d even throw Tao Lin in there. Jonathan Lethem? Whatever. And as much as I love Shakespeare’s Hamlet and Nathaniel Hawthorne’s Scarlet Letter, I have no idea what either of them are doing here. Just chilling with the postmodernists, I guess.

11 Responses

  1. I simply can’t trust any
    I simply can’t trust any postmodernist list that is so incompetently assembled that it misspells Laurence Sterne’s name, fails to capitalize the L in DeLillo’s surname, and doesn’t include Richard Powers’s GALATEA 2.2. And Scarlett Thomas? MOTHERLESS BROOKLYN? Harvey Pekar? Really? Carolyn doesn’t seem to possess the acumen to distinguish between prodigious fiction (or novels of ideas), quirky autobiography and genre books, and bona-fide postmodernism. Plenty of novels “play with form,” but that doesn’t make any of these books postmodernist. Just as a writer who pens an essay about his boxing experience isn’t necessarily “the Norman Mailer of our generation.”

    So much for those morally superior specimens at the Los Angeles Times who think they’re above us.

  2. Now Ed … I really do
    Now Ed … I really do appreciate you sticking up for me on my right to read “Da Vinci Code” if I want to, but aren’t you just engaging in some kind of ongoing beef here? The list does have a lot going for it. It’s true they misspelled Sterne’s name, but let’s face it, NOBODY knows how to capitalize Don DeLillo’s name. It’s a toss-up whether that “L” is lowercase or not, as far as I’ve ever been able to tell.

  3. I think of Raymond Carver as
    I think of Raymond Carver as postmodern because he has a very deliberate, strict and artistic style — and yet it’s not the high intellectual style of modernism but rather something more earthy, plain, “K-Mart realism” as they call it. Does that help answer the question?

  4. The publishers, the Library
    The publishers, the Library of Congress, and Wikipedia (for whatever its worth) all agree on the second L. And I will answer your email soon, I promise. Thanks.

  5. Paul Auster’s Hand To Mouth
    Paul Auster’s Hand To Mouth is almost as good as Jame’s Ellroy’s My Dark Places. I like the letters of blue collar Herman Hesse and white collar Thomas Mann, their correspondence. Kerouac was post-modern, sentimental throughout his career. Post-modern John Irving likes Dickens, Hawthorne, doesn’t go for the moderns.

    Tom Waits liked looking at wallpaper from a distance, because he couldn’t really see it, which is like memory. We can’t remember everything, but a history lesson, an article, a piece of music, a film can help.

  6. The clarification’s good but
    The clarification’s good but how much credit would yo give his editor Lish? The New Yorker ran an un-edited Carver short story and it’s nearly unrecognizable from the edited version.

  7. It’s not a business model,
    It’s not a business model, Levi. Archipelago is not-for-profit press with a stated aim of publishing works that are overlooked by commercially driven presses. Most all of their revenue comes from contributions, not sales. But I’m sure they appreciate your mention anyway.

  8. All lists of this kind are
    All lists of this kind are kind of silly and reductive, and it’s hard to criticize most of the choices. This is a good list to choose from (selectively) for an undergraduate course in Postmodern Fiction. But it’s certainly contains some stupid inclusions and two bad spelling errors.

    Of course, if you haven’t read Alain Robbe-Grillet, Ishmael Reed, Elfriede Jelinek, Clarence Major, Lynne Tillman, Ronald Sukenick, Adrienne Kennedy, Ivan Klima, Dennis Cooper, Jonathan Baumbach, Dario Fo, Severo Sarduy, Maria Irene Fornes, Ursule Molinaro, Raymond Federman, Michel Houellebecq, Wallace Markson, Eugene Ionesco, David Ives, Dodie Bellamy, Max Apple, Arnost Lustig, Steve Katz, Carol Emshwiller, Cris Mazza, Mark Leyner, Gerald Vizenor, Diane Glancy,Kenneth Gangemi, Kenneth Bernard, Robert Kelly, Richard Kostelanetz, William Vollman, Charles Bernstein, Lyn Hejinian, AndrĂ©e Chedid, etc. etc., then I guess they won’t appear on your list.

  9. Immediately after I posted
    Immediately after I posted that, I thought: How could I forget Robert Walser and Danilo Kis? But then you could go on and on…The most precise comment on the blog where that list was posted was that it was actually a list of famous or well-known books.

    The fact that non-postmodernist John O’Hara’s “Ten North Frederick” and other novels are out of print is not coincidental. Nor is the fact that your own additions to the list are those of someone who also reads the received canon and little else.

  10. Richard, that’s an
    Richard, that’s an interesting point that I read the received canon and little else. I certainly follow my own muse when reading the received canon — I don’t see many other bloggers hawking Richard Brautigan or Henry David Thoreau or John O’Hara these days — so I hope this doesn’t mean you think I’m a follower.

    But it’s true that I am fascinated with “the canon”, with the popular literature of mankind. I’ve always been more interested in discovering the great (and often unknown) writers of the past than in being a scout for little known or up and coming talents. I let other readers do the first round of selection. I still have barely made a dent in the canon, too, after a lifetime of reading.

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