Poetry, Product, and the Novel: A Few Notes on Mark de Silva’s “Distant Visions”

Mark de Silva has written a superb polemic essay against the state of the literary novel in our time: “Distant Visions: Putdownable Prose and the State of the Art-Novel.” In it, he issues a challenge to the three-way convergence of memoir, journalism, and fiction today, which he sees as privileging easy-to-read prose and easy-to-identify-with situations, a … Continue reading Poetry, Product, and the Novel: A Few Notes on Mark de Silva’s “Distant Visions”

Tom McCarthy, Satin Island

Satin Island: A Novel by Tom McCarthy My rating: 3 of 5 stars Imagine DeLillo or Ballard without either of those writers' command of language. Imagine prose in the style of successful young humanities academics today, who write as if they have read every novel, played every video game, grasped every political theory, and can … Continue reading Tom McCarthy, Satin Island

Hergé, The Adventures of Tintin, Vol. 1

The Adventures of Tintin, Vol. 1: Tintin in America / Cigars of the Pharaoh / The Blue Lotus by Hergé My rating: 4 of 5 stars There is something about Tintin, isn't there? I had never read it before, but a survey course on the history of comics this semester forced my to it. Here … Continue reading Hergé, The Adventures of Tintin, Vol. 1

Labyrinth vs. Network; or, Why Modernism Is Not Google

I find a lot to criticize and very little, almost nothing, to like in the Tom McCarthy essay that is making the rounds, but I will confine myself to one point: It is not just that people with degrees in English generally go to work for corporations (which of course they do); the point is that the … Continue reading Labyrinth vs. Network; or, Why Modernism Is Not Google

Dave McKean, Cages

Cages by Dave McKean My rating: 5 of 5 stars One of my favorite comics. A magical realist multimedia story of artists (Leo the painter, Angel the musician, Jonathan the writer) in a London apartment building, Cages has a set of influences uncommon in Anglophone comics: Kafka and Schulz in literature, Svankmajer and the Brothers … Continue reading Dave McKean, Cages

Penitential Realism?

It's been almost fourteen years since James Wood warned us about "hysterical realism," presumably the major novelistic mode of the late twentieth century.  According to Wood, it is a mode devoted to information, coincidence, captial-P Politics, various forms of irrealism (caricature, fantasy, metafiction), and a breathlessness of tone: Rushdie, DeLillo, Pynchon, Wallace, etc. We're well … Continue reading Penitential Realism?