Love and Theft and Ted and Alice

1. A minor miracle has occurred: I actually love an essay written by Jonathan Lethem. I appreciate the vast range of reference (from Fritz the Cat to The Mary Tyler Moore Show to Bob Dylan’s Love and Theft), I agree with the article’s general conclusions, and I’m even pleased that he called the article “The Ecstasy of Influence”. This essay stands as proof that Lethem can produce substantial work when he lets his brainier instincts roam free.

I still can’t stand his postmodernism-by-numbers novels or his coy/cute Rolling Stone interviews, though, so don’t get it twisted.

2. Critic John Leonard offers a kindly nod towards the literary blogosphere in this Enthusiast Article, which Literary Saloon correctly notes will be quoted all over the internet by sundown. Well, why not? Nobody ever appreciates us. Even the article’s author Meghan O’Rourke has to follow up Leonard’s remark that “It’s going to have to be the lit blogs that save us. At least they have passion” by disagreeing with him (“passion alone doesn’t produce the essayists of the sort who shape our deepest thinking about our literary culture”). Be quiet and let Mr. Leonard speak, O’Rourke.

3. Here’s me at the PBS blog, talking about a good new documentary on the history of New Orleans that’ll be premiering Monday night.

4. An invigorating read: J. M. Coetzee on Norman Mailer’s new book.

2 Responses

  1. Just bad theft.I find
    Just bad theft.

    I find something intellectually dishonest about cobbling together a first person account lifting various other people’s reminiscences and felt cheated at the denouement at the end of the article by Mr Lethem. I’m not smart enough to elucidate the definitive distinction between plagiarism and influence, just that stealing makes you smarmy.

  2. We Differ on LethemBut then,
    We Differ on Lethem

    But then, old pal, we differ on Pynchon as well.

    I love the “controversy” being generated by Lethem’s rendering of the words of others to illustrate his own thoughts. I’ve often considered creating something like this (for example, I often speak of writing an entire story or essay using only lines from Star Trek) but I’m just too damned lazy to do it.

    One thing I’ve often noted when such copyright controversies occur: those who seem most angry about plagiarism and most passionate about copyright are those who have neither been plagiarized nor published. Whether they believe in strict or loose laws, it seems those who have enough time and energy to devote to “the cause” are robbed of the time and energy they need to create. Or perhaps this is their version of “creation” – defending the creations of others.

    Which begs the silly question: when will someone be sued for copyright infringement for infringing on the work of an advocate for looser copyright laws?

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