The Cultural Cold War: The CIA and the World of Arts and Letters by Frances Stonor Saunders My rating: 4 of 5 stars Someone once said that beneath or behind all political and cultural warfare lies a struggle between secret societies. —Ishmael Reed, Mumbo Jumbo (1972) This 1999 book by British journalist Saunders is the … Continue reading Frances Stonor Saunders, The Cultural Cold War: The CIA and the World of Arts and Letters
If American literature had been left wholly in the hands of established publishers—Ticknor and Fields, for instance—Longfellow might have remained our greatest poet. But Walt Whitman, an American, one of the roughs, a kosmos, had Leaves of Grass printed, at his own expense, in 1855—he even set most of the type himself. Likewise, if Virginia … Continue reading Literary Fiction: To Self-Publish or Not?
Vanishing Point by David Markson My rating: 4 of 5 stars Well, someday I will get around to the author's masterpiece, Wittgenstein's Mistress—as well as to those other books that are listed with wry self-reference in this book: "Wittgenstein's Vienna. Wittgenstein's Nephew. Wittgenstein's Poker. Wittgenstein's Ladder." Until then, I have read this, my second of … Continue reading David Markson, Vanishing Point
Ted Gioia, introducing his reconsideration of John Fowles: Here’s the truest test. Wait until ten years after their death, and see if anyone still talks about their books. You need a decade for the hype to dissipate, for the eulogies to fade from readers’ memories. Class reading lists have now been updated. The old book … Continue reading On the Survival of Writers’ Reputations
No doubt due to the creeping horrors of the slush pile—agrammatical erotica, all-caps conspiracy theories, and suchlike—every journal, editor, and agent in the literary land has published a list of don’ts for writers who want to submit their work. However “we’re-all-in-this-together” such lists are meant to sound, they generally have a scolding school-like tone, either … Continue reading Don’ts for Journals, Editors, and Agents
Tim Parks, whose essays tend to bemuse me, as if he and I were not living in the same universe, nevertheless says much that I agree with and find refreshing in his latest, "In Search of Authenticity." There he defends authenticity—"Are these real concerns?"—as a standard of literary value. But at the risk of becoming a … Continue reading On Authenticity Considered as a Standard of Literary Value
First We Read, Then We Write: Emerson on the Creative Process by Robert D. Richardson My rating: 4 of 5 stars I'm not sure I got what I was supposed to from this book, even as it is a book that argues for the rights of readers to get whatever they need from their reading. … Continue reading Robert D. Richardson, First We Read, Then We Write: Emerson on the Creative Process
Before I read Micah Mattix's Weekly Standard essay in dispraise of Emerson, "Where's Waldo?" I was curious to see what line of attack would be pursued. Critics on the left commonly assail Emerson for his individualism, for those features of his rhetoric we might call Reaganesque ("Are they my poor?"). But Emerson was a metaphysical radical, … Continue reading In Defense of Emerson: Reading for the Lustres