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meanwhile back in america…

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This piece made me want to vomit. Quite seriously – kitchen started spinning about around me as I read it. Not the writer’s fault, he / she (she, right? I had to read it skippingly due to the vomit provocation) is all to the good. But lord almighty, what sort of world do we live in?

Quick! A corrective from Josipovici via this space:

Of course one can go on playing the game of who ‘really’ is in the Modernist tradition and who isn’t. I myself, like Everett, would make Auden rather than Bunting central. But that, as I understand it, is not the main thrust of Kenner’s argument. In this country, today, ‘ambitious’ tends to mean ‘long’; ‘wildly imaginative’ tends to mean ‘working in the minor mode of fantasy’; ‘sensitive’ and ‘compassionate’ to mean ‘this author still writes like Hardy.’ Instead of the ambition of an Eliot, a Kafka, or Beckett, to speak the truth at whatever cost in terms of popularity, we have variants on Hemingway’s absurd boast that he could take Tolstoy to 15 rounds, or the even more debased ambition to win a major prize. What I find absent from the bulk of contemporary English fiction and poetry, clever and witty as much of it is, is precisely that sense of the voice of a person subject to his or her own experience, which Everett finds in Larkin. ‘Defeated, the poet starts to sound like a person: unique,’ she writes. I think she is right, and not just about Larkin: there is a profound conjunction between the acknowledgment of defeat – as a writer, as well as as a person – and the quality of art. But the implications of that have not, it seems to me, ever really been taken on board in England. I don’t think American letters have all that much to boast about at present, but unfortunately more of Kenner’s critique of English writing holds than Everett is prepared to accept.

Phew. OK. Let’s stick with that for awhile rather than the other thing! I was planning to read Handke tonight instead of this bit from Salon. Serious mistake!

Written by adswithoutproducts

November 29, 2009 at 11:59 pm

Posted in novel

2 Responses

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  1. I read the opening paragraph then I closed it very very quickly.

    Little Red

    November 30, 2009 at 5:35 pm

  2. I remember reading that article when it was published in ’04. It seemed plausible then; after five more years of writing in America, it seems obvious. Fiction writing isn’t a career. The best-case scenario is to be published in a small run and read by a coterie. A living wage isn’t even on the table; everyone does something else for rent.


    December 12, 2009 at 10:20 pm

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