I liked it—a lot. I will definitely pick up Dreadnought and probably Clementine when it comes out in pb.
However, I can’t say that I see it as Priest does as a kind of steampunk magnum opus [
manifesto]. I didn’t really see it as all that ‘steampunkish’ really. Just because people fly about in dirigibles during the Victorian era doesn’t make it steampunk.
The Steampunk magnum opuses, again, to me, are two of the first and best steampunk novels: Gibson and Sterling’s The Difference Engine and Stephenson’s The Diamond Age.
We saw our local symphony perform last night.
We are really lucky here—before he lost all his money through bad dealings by his son, a local car dealer magnate donated a huge sum of money to build a concert hall that bears his name. The acoustics are incredible.
In the Bach piece, the one bassoonist on stage was clearly having the time of his life—I can’t imagine he gets to shine all that often.
I used to think that academics were the stupidest people alive for trying to enter the Ivory Tower—well, we are unless we’re independently wealthy and don’t care where we live or we’re atmospherically brilliant (even Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick slaved away for YEARS before she found a tenure-track job where she basically created Queer Studies, but I digress)—but classical musicians must have an even harder, more-cutthroat existence.
But at least they get to do their thing in front of people, and no one says, ‘Oh, you teach literature? I was always terrible at grammar.’ Like I give two hoots. But thanks for reducing the years I’ve dedicated to learning everything I can about American, British, Irish, Canadian, etc literatures of the Post-American Civil War era to spelling and punctuation. I did do a year on the comma splice alone. I have a dissertation chapter on the semi-colon.
All that aside: Great night. Support your local music scene, I guess I’m saying.
Some may recall when I couldn’t read. Not like illiterate, but unable to enjoy a book or anything requiring sustained concentration. Those days are clearly behind me. Booosh.
Yesterday I finished The Pale King and Atwood’s In Other World’s. Today, I ran through most of Gibson’s new book of essays (Atwood’s is better), and now I’ve started The Night Circus which is so up my alley.
The former must be the perfect cure for the latter. Yeesh this is tough sledding.
Finished, as it were, with Ratner ‘s Star and One Hundred Years of Solitude. Got as much as I could from each. Now: Cormac McCarthy whose prose cuts to the marrow.
If you don’t like McCarthy we can’t be friends.
He’s just the greatest American prose writer since Faulkner. Pynchon is amazing, especially in V., Gravity’s Rainbow and Mason & Dixon; David Foster Wallace was a master, but didn’t pare his work down enough at times (imvho); Neal Stephenson makes literature out of Captain Crunch and pop-up ads.
But it’s McCarthy who tears away the extraneous and makes the leanest, rawest prose poetic and moving.
I’m going to finish all the other books on my nightstand asap and then just read all the McCarthy books left in his oeuvre. Maybe I can get a paper out of this man’s work; maybe it’s too powerful for me to touch without burning myself.
Hope it’s more accessible than Against the Day and more interesting than Inherent Vice.
I am going to finish my virtual stack of papers for this week today.
Which means no Saturday or Sunday grading.
I could watch all the footbaw.
But I’ll probably just watch the Auburn/LSU murderdeathball in Death Valley and the Pats and the Bucs on Sunday.
I really want to pick up Pynchon’s latest, but a) I have no monies, and b) what’s the point? I can’t read for pleasure anymore.
But today I will power through these last essays.
Many have tagged me in the “What 10 books can I think of that affected me in an impactful way.”
Hmm. That’s a tricky one for a book nerd, but I’ll give it a shot.
In no particular order:
The World According to Garp, John Irving
Moby-Dick, Herman Melville
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Roald Dahl
The Sound and the Fury, William Faulkner
The Tempest, William Shakespeare
Oryx and Crake, Margaret Atwood
Gravity’s Rainbow, Thomas Pynchon
Cryptonomicon, Neal Stephenson
A Wrinkle in Time, Madeline L’Engle
The Magus, John Fowles
Also receiving votes in the Coaches’ Poll:
The Sun Also Rises, Ernest Hemingway
The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald
Ulysses, James Joyce
Democracy, Joan Didion
Frankenstein, Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley
Dr. Faustus, Christopher Marlowe
Slaughterhouse-5, Kurt Vonnegut
Mumbo Jumbo, Ishmael Reed
Black Boy, Richard Wright
Go Tell it on the Mountain, James Baldwin
Leaves of Grass, Walt Whitman
The Complete Poems, Emily Dickinson
Pattern Recognition, William Gibson
The Waves, Virginia Woolf
The Catcher in the Rye, J.D. Salinger
A Thousand Plateaus, Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari
Capital, Karl Marx
Beyond Good and Evil, Friedrich Nietzsche
Madness and Civilization, Michel Foucault
Problems of Dostoyevsky’s Poetics, Mikhail Bahktin
The Republic, Plato
The Complete Poems, T.S. Eliot
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, Hunter S. Thompson
Invisible Man, Ralph Ellison
Night, Elie Wiesel
Leaf Storm, Gabriel García Márquez
Song of Solomon, Toni Morrison
In the digital age, charts and maps are more popular than ever.
I remain a sucker for literary maps.
Last week, I posted a short story by Neil Gaiman and said basically that I find Gaiman (and Palmer) to be a fairly ridiculous person, but that I admire much of his work—Neverwhere, American Gods, Coraline, The Graveyard Book, and The Ocean at the End of the Lane, esp. I’m not a big fan of his Sandman series, though I recognize that it’s important for the world of graphic novels.
I wouldn’t call Gaiman unsavory, however, nor would I say that he’s particularly offensive. I think that Amanda Palmer’s kickstarter and abuse of young, struggling musicians was/is far more foul.
But as a student and scholar of writing and literature, there are some pretty unsavory folks whom we in the academy hold in very high esteem.
My fields of study include post-Civil War American literature and post-Victorian British and Irish literature. Included among the most-esteemed writers of these nations and eras are T.S. Eliot a virulent Anti-Semite who had his quite sane, though ill, wife committed to a mental institution; Ezra Pound who compounded his Anti-Semitism into actual fascism, working directly for the Mussolini regime doing radio broadcasts; William S. Burroughs murdered his wife and served exactly zero days in prison; W.B. Yeats is another Anti-Semite, Ernest Hemingway who ran through wives and mistresses like so many cups of Pernod; and, just for one more,William Faulkner pledged to shoot black people in the streets of Mississippi if need be, and he didn’t say ‘black people.’
These beliefs, and, in the case of Pound and Hemingway, actions, are in no way acceptable to me. Words, especially words spoken by Nobel Laureates, carry weight and can deeply wound.
So, shall I not teach these writers? Shall I not teach The Waste Land, one of the landmarks of Modernism? Or shall I not teach Go Down, Moses, one of the finest examinations of race and racism within a mixed race family in American literature that I have yet encountered? Shall I not teach ‘The Song of the Wandering Aengus,’ ‘In a Station of the Metro,’ The Sun Also Rises, or Naked Lunch (which, ok, almost no one teaches)?
I honestly don’t know some days. But then I think, if I were a Renaissance scholar, would I not teach The Tempest because Shakespeare almost certainly left his wife and children in Stratford while he lived, worked, and ‘played’ in London? If I was an art historian, would I skip over Picasso or Monet because they cheated on their wives? A world without Guernica is poorer for it, no?
On the other hand, one can make a pretty good syllabus of post-Civil War American literature with Whitman, Dickinson, Hughes, Hurston, Wright, Baldwin, Ellison, Pynchon, Morrison, and Stephenson, and, for the most part, these were/are decent people and top-flight artists. And so that’s what I try to do. But to ignore the artistic achievements of rotten, I mean really rotten people like T.S. Eliot, is awfully difficult in my line of work.
And so we come to Woody Allen. It can be argued that outside of Orson Welles, no American actor/writer/director has had a greater impact on American Cinema than Woody. Any history of World Cinema must include his work. Must.
And yet, the allegations brought by Dylan Farrow, to go along with the long rumors of Woody’s abuse of other of his adopted children, are so heinous, so foul, so disturbing, that I am left not just saying that I am done with Woody’s work (and I am), but everything in his career must be judged through this lens. And it’s not pretty. “Manhattan,” e.g., is unwatchable. The man is, in my mind, unequivocally a pedophile. He should be locked up.
But it’s not so simple, is it for those of us in the academy—can we simply ignore artists who’s impact has been monumental because they are despicable, criminal human beings? I honestly don’t know.
So I will continue to chuckle at Gaiman the public figure while I marvel at his creations. I will continue to be glad that Pynchon and Stephenson are reclusive or least largely withdrawn from public life and what we do know of them is largely positive—Pynchon might have stolen Richard Fariña’s wife, but it’s not clear what actually happened. The art and the artist are both intertwined and absolutely separate. I believe this. A novel, play, or film must be, in my line of work, evaluated on its merits, not simply because it is part of one particular artist’s oeuvre. And yet.