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  1. #1
    Nora Christie
    Guest

    "A Reader's Manifesto"

    Interesting article in Atlantic Online about a man named B.R. Myers whose book as above seems to echo what I've thought about today's literary fiction. Subtitle of book is "An attack on the growing pretentiousness in American literary fiction." I haven't read his book but did his article excerpted from it last year in Atlantic. He took to task, for example, Don DeLillo, Annie Proulx, Guterman, Cormac for pretentious and obscure writing. I'd like to add an English writer to his list, book I've just finished by Rachael Cusk on motherhood, "A Life's Work." It is painfully overdone. Comments, anyone?

    Nora



  2. #2
    Jerry Hatchett
    Guest

    Re: "A Reader's Manifesto"

    I read the excerpt around a year ago, and also a more recent article about the excerpt and the book. Very interesting read for sure.

  3. #3
    Debra
    Guest

    Re: "A Reader's Manifesto"

    I thought The Corrections by critical-darling-prize-winning Jonathan Franzen was a pretentious book about unlikeable characters.

  4. #4
    Pat Cooper
    Guest

    Re: "A Reader's Manifesto"

    I agree with Debra.

    I didn't even get a quarter way into "The Corrections." I found I had better things to do with my time.

    patC

  5. #5
    nic.h
    Guest

    Re: "A Reader's Manifesto"

    I LOVED The Corrections, and am re-reading it as we speak, but then I also love Proulx, Guterman, and really enjoyed Guttree (Cormac) but haven't been able to finish any of his other books.

    If by "pretentious" he meant complex or multi-layered, then he's spot-on. Playing with the craft doesn't necessarily make you pretentious, but not everyone's going to like it either. What's good, bad, literary, popular...these are all subjective issues. I find it futile and disingenuous to try to catalogue books and genres on the basis of merit. To presume that any single person's representation of quality is any more reliable than another's is absurd and presumptuous, not to say, arrogant. In literature, except perhaps in the most extreme situations(and that's debatable too), there are no reliable measures of good and bad, just taste and preference.

    I hate Hemingway - too blokey and dead in his language - but I'd never say his writing is bad. Just doesn't move *me*, that's all. Tony Morrison, on the other hand, shakes me up, and leaves an impression on me with almost every word she writes. And I couldn't be further from the American, Black/white race issues than I am - in both geography and lifestyle. But there it is. She speaks to me, while Hemingway doesn't.

    nic.h

  6. #6
    keith miller
    Guest

    Re: "A Reader's Manifesto"

    I read the article when it came out, and thought the dude had a few good points, but his arguments didn't cohere. While Guterson is an awful writer, and Snow Falling on Cedars is indeed schlock, Cormac McCarthy is one of the great writers of this or any age. Myers pulled out a rather florid, and entirely atypical, quote from All the Pretty Horses, and used it to deride McCarthy's entire oeuvre. Likewise, the damning quote he provided from Paul Auster's City of Glass was from a monologue by a man who spent the first years of his life in enforced solitude: hardly representative of Auster's writing. Not that City of Glass is a brilliant book, but it works. Annie Proulx is one of the finest prose stylists around, and I found her collection Close Range stirring. Myers's comment on the one sentence he pulled from her was plain wrong-headed. Toward the end of the article Myers seems to hint that writers such as Stephen King should be lauded equally with these 'literary' novelists. While I'm not prejudiced against 'low-brow' books, and will read anything that tickles my fancy, placing King in the same literary universe as McCarthy is sacrilege.

    Okay, diatribe over. Glad you enjoyed Suttree, nic. It's one of my favorite books. Give Blood Meridian and All the Pretty Horses another try. Blood Meridian is unrelentingly violent, but the writing is gorgeous and the character of the judge is classic, up there with Harrogate.

  7. #7
    nic.h
    Guest

    OK Keith

    I'll start with "All the pretty horses" because I've already got it collecting dust on my bookshelf. I'd like to give it a try again - might have been in the wrong frame of mind last time - especially because I remember struggling in those first 30 pp or so with Guttree, but then getting totally lost in it from there on.

    But I must defend "Snow falling..." This was a truly cinematic book, and very atmospheric. I found the storyline gripping, but I was also caught up in the imagery of the place and the time. Nowhere near scholck in my opinion, but then, that simply underlines my earlier point.

    Plus, after reading "On writing..." I have a whole new respect for Steven King. I'm too much of a whimp to read his horror stories - I still have nightmares about "Carrie", and only have to conjure up Nicholson's face on the video cover to know I can't come at "The Shining" without destroying any chance of sleep for the rest of my adult life, but his writing guide/memoir was very inspirational for me - both from an artistic and a writing craft perspective. So I feel confident his horror stories are also as clearly and creatively written. He's very efficient with words which is something I have never been able to master (as any readers of my posts would realise!) but also something I'm aiming for.

    nic.h

  8. #8
    keith miller
    Guest

    OK nic

    Still haven't found a copy of On Writing here, but I promise I'll give it a try when I do. Afraid we'll just have to disagree about Schlock Falling on Cedars. All the Pretty Horses may be my favorite book, though I have a caveat: he went on too long. In the past number of rereadings, I've stopped immediately after the Zacatecas section--page 256 in my copy. I guess you'll have to read to the end the first time, but for future reference....

  9. #9
    nic.h
    Guest

    Re: OK nic

    thanks, Keith. I'll keep that in mind.

    Try to order "On writing" online if possible. It was a really fun and surprisingly inspirational read. (Or maybe you can pick one up on one of your many upcoming international book tours! :-) )

    Also, a while back you mentioned a problem with your title (country of sorrows, or similar right?). What was the deal with that? Why couldn't you use it? I asked you this on another thread at the time, but it got lost in the other postings. I'm interested to know what the thinking behind that decision was.

    nic.h

  10. #10
    Debra
    Guest

    Re: OK nic

    Different strokes for different folks... I liked Snow Falling on Cedars and the book I read by Proulx (forget the name). Nice language, real page turners, original stories.

    I thought All the Pretty Horses was pretentious. Pretty language, but in a phony way. Hated how the male characters were so Clint-Eastwoodish macho. Was there anything they weren't good at?

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