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“this schoolboy desire to boast and to shock”: josipovici strikes a blow

with 4 comments

Was out for a drink with a colleague in Farringdon the other day and when he went in to buy us another round I picked up the copy of the Guardian that someone had left on the table. It was open to this, a media-scruff rendition of Josipovici’s new What Ever Happened to Modernism. Fantastic stuff:

“We are in a very fallow period,” Josipovici said, calling the contemporary English novel “profoundly disappointing – a poor relation of its ground-breaking modernist forebears”.

He said: “Reading Barnes, like reading so many other English writers of his generation – Martin Amis, McEwan – leaves me feeling that I and the world have been made smaller and meaner. The irony which at first made one smile, the precision of language which was at first so satisfying, the cynicism which at first was used only to puncture pretension, in the end come to seem like a terrible constriction, a fear of opening oneself up to the world.

“I wonder, though, where it came from, this petty-bourgeois uptightness, this terror of not being in control, this schoolboy desire to boast and to shock.” Such faults were less generally evident in Irish, American, or continental European writing, he added.

Laurence Sterne’s 18th-century novel Tristram Shandy remained more avant-garde than the so-called avant-garde today, Josipovici argued.

“An author like Salman Rushdie takes from Sterne all the tricks without recognising the darkness underneath. You feel Rushdie’s just showing off rather than giving a sense of genuine exploration.”

Was hard at the moment not to fantasize that the reason the paper was on the bar table and left open to that page in particular was because one of the authors in question or at least one of their acolytes had settled in for an early afternoon restorative, flipped through to this page, and then left in haste and in a tremendous huff….

Written by adswithoutproducts

August 1, 2010 at 6:55 pm

Posted in josipovici, novel

4 Responses

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  1. i’m really looking forward to reading the whole book. it’s not that i intrinsically hate Amis et al but they do seem, in general, to be far too satisfied with doing very basic stuff. McEwan seems especially pleased with doing very poor quality Woolf pastiches.

    weirdly very few print journos in broadsheets ever say this. are they all ‘directed’ to review kindly?

    shake

    August 3, 2010 at 6:14 pm

    • Well McEwan’s wife is literary editor of Guardian Saturday Review…

      Geoffrey Wall

      August 4, 2010 at 11:55 am

    • shake,

      It’s funny about the print reviews, yes. I’m pretty fearless (foolishly so?) in my review work, so they should send the new McEwan’s etc along to me.

      adswithoutproducts

      August 5, 2010 at 12:20 pm

  2. It’d be good to see that, in fact i’d love it; but aside from the nepotistic side which Geoffrey rightly points out, there must also be a sizeable audience which wants to read kind reviews of this stuff. It infects the ‘learned journals’ too – Frank Kermode on ‘On Beauty’ in the LRB, for instance, was pretty shabby.

    On the other hand, I still can’t quite work out why news editors think that anything connected with Martin Amis (anna ford etc) or indeed McEwan (discovering his half-brother actually made the front page of tehgraun a few years ago) is worth including in the current affairs sections of newspapers.

    shake

    August 6, 2010 at 10:38 am


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