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Posts Tagged ‘criticism

“For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong”*…

 

What is a sentence? But that is such a formal question. How about, what is a sentence for? Less formal, perhaps, but obviously impossible to answer, for sheer variety. There may be some human purposes that don’t find their way into sentences, but writers keep trying, and for any limit we experience there may be a sentence in waiting and a writer to try it…

I’ll propose one purpose that all sentences have in common. The purpose of a sentence is to end. If this is a property of all sentences, any ought to do for an example, but here is one particularly determined to be done with itself:

1 The world is everything that is the case.

It comes from Wittgenstein’s Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus, as translated from German into English by C. K. Ogden in 1922…

From the first of the Paris Review’s eight-part series, Life Sentence, the literary critic, scholar, and poet Jeff Dolven takes apart and puts back together one beloved or bedeviling sentence every week.  Tom Toro illustrates each sentence Dolven chooses.

[TotH to John Stedman]

* H.L. Mencken

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As we pause to parse prose, we might recall that it was on this date in 1983 that the celebration of the crafter of so very many elegant sentences, Martin Luther King, was made official, when President Ronald Reagan signed the bill creating the Martin Luther King Jr. Day federal holiday.  Reagan had opposed the holiday, citing its cost, joining southern Republicans like Jesse Helms, who were more naked in their reasoning; but the enabling legislation had passed by a veto-proof margin.

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“I got a little bored after a time. I mean, the road seemed to be awfully long.”*…

 

Explore– and enjoy: “14 classic works of literature hated by famous authors.”

* Aldous Huxley on On the Road

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As we devour the dish, we might send prolific birthday greetings to E. Phillips Oppenheim; he was born on this date in 1866.  

After leaving school at age 17 to help in his father’s leather business, Oppenheim wrote in his spare time. His first novel, Expiation (1886), and subsequent thrillers caught the fancy of a wealthy New York businessman who bought out the leather business at the turn of the century and made Oppenheim a high-salaried director. He was thus freed to devote the major part of his time to writing. The novels, volumes of short stories, and plays that followed, totaling more than 150, were peopled with sophisticated heroes, adventurous spies, and dashing noblemen. Among his well-known works are The Long Arm of Mannister (1910), The Moving Finger (1911), and The Great Impersonation (1920). [source]

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Written by LW

October 22, 2017 at 1:01 am

“Don’t criticize what you can’t understand”*…

 

Cultural critique is in a tricky spot. Living as we do under an extremist government, it is hard to know what to do with criticism, or how to consume art that does not carry a big rubber stamp declaring it “political.” It’s hard to defend doing anything except being in the streets…

Cultural criticism is not self-indulgent: It is a service to the community…  Painting, music, television, the visual culture of the internet, poetry: These art forms and their consumers and critics represent an aesthetic space whose boundaries are not defined by the president. Unless we believe in and nurture this space, the critic is stuck forever explaining how this or that book is crucial reading “in Trump’s America.” But this type of reviewing hobbles thought, because it reduces all art to the structure of satire. It is as if Trump is a spider in the middle of a web, and every review that tethers the meaning of a pop song to his régime strengthens it…

Art as society’s hope chest: “In Defense of Cultural Criticism in Trump’s America.”

* Bob Dylan, “The Times, They Are A’-Changin'”

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As we think for ourselves, we might recall that it was on this date in 1839 that Charlotte Brontë, eldest of the three literary Brontë sisters, and author of Jane Eyre (among other novels), wrote to The Reverend Henry Nussey, the brother of Ellen Nussey, her long-time friend and correspondent, refusing Henry’s proposal of marriage.  Charlotte found Henry desperately dull.  Still, she let him down diplomatically.  “I have no personal repugnance to the idea of a union with you,” she wrote in her unenthusiastic reply, going on to cite altruistic reasons for her demurral: “mine is not the sort of disposition calculated to form the happiness of a man like you.”

cbrichmond source

 

Written by LW

March 5, 2017 at 1:01 am

“A copy is a meta-original”*…

 

History tells us that Walter Benjamin, the influential German critic of literature, art, and culture, died more than seventy years ago. So how is it that he’s now out doing lectures and has published a new book?

The fascinating tale in its entirety at “An Investigation Into the Reappearance of Walter Benjamin.”

Conceived by an anthropologist of art and culture as a collection of recent texts by Walter Benjamin written between 1986 and the present, this book includes interviews by Beti Zerovc, Maxine Kopsa and Milo Rau as well as lectures including “Lenin and Coca-Cola,” “The Unmaking of Art” and “The Making of Americans.”

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[TotH to Tyler Hellard’s Pop Loser]

* Walter Benjamin

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As we celebrate simulacra, we might recall that it was on this date in 1969 that “Sugar, Sugar” hit the top of the U.S. pop charts.  Written by Jeff Berry and Andy Kim as one of 16 musical segments performed by “The Archies” (a group of studio musicians) in the CBS “The Archie Comedy Hour,” the tune went on to become the number-one single of the year.

email readers click here for video

 

Written by LW

September 20, 2014 at 1:01 am

Spinning a (World Wide) Web…

 

click here for larger, interactive version

In commemoration of Chrome’s birthday, Google enlisted Hyperakt and Vizzuality to create a celebratory chart of the evolution of the internet…  The interactive timeline has bunch of nifty features– your correspondent’s fave: clicking a browser icon allows users to see how the browser’s window has changed in each release…  a stroll down “memory lay-out,” if not memory lane– and a concrete reminder of the importance of design.

[TotH to the ever-remarkable Flowing Data]

 

As we resolve yet again to clean out our bookmark cache, we might wish an acerbic Happy Birthday to journalist, essayist, magazine editor, satirist, and critic Henry Louis “H. L.” Mencken; he was born on this date in 1880.  Mencken is the auuthor of the philological work The American Language, and is remembered for his journalism (e.g., his coverage of the Scopes Trial) and for his cultural criticism (and editorship of American Mercury— published by Alfred Knopf, also born on this date, but 12 years after Mencken ) in which he championed such writers as D.H. Lawrence, Ford Madox Ford, and Sherwood Anderson.  But “H.L.” is probably most famous for the profusion of pointed one-liners and adages that leavened his work…

The difference between a moral man and a man of honor is that the latter regrets a discreditable act, even when it has worked and he has not been caught.

Civilization, in fact, grows more and more maudlin and hysterical; especially under democracy it tends to degenerate into a mere combat of crazes; the whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by an endless series of hobgoblins, most of them imaginary.

I believe in only one thing and that thing is human liberty. If ever a man is to achieve anything like dignity, it can happen only if superior men are given absolute freedom to think what they want to think and say what they want to say. I am against any man and any organization which seeks to limit or deny that freedom. . . [and] the superior man can be sure of freedom only if it is given to all men.

Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want, and deserve to get it good and hard.

Truth would quickly cease to be stranger than fiction, once we got as used to it.

H.L. Mencken, photograph by Carl Van Vechten (source)

 

 

“It’s the stories, man; it’s the stories!”*…

Zachary Kanin

Readers who are readers will be delighted to discover (if they haven’t already) Narrative Magazine, a wonderful web-based literary review (though there is also a thrice-yearly hard copy edition).  Featuring fiction from the likes of Ann Beattie, Richard Bausch, James Salter, Elizabeth Benedict, and Amy Bloom, essays from folks like Gail Godwin, Larry McMurtry, and Rick Bass, it also showcases poetry and your correspondent’s special weakness:  cartoons like the one above (use the pull-down on the page at the other end of that link to see other galleries).

The love-child of two Bay Area literati, Narrative is a 501-c3 devoted to Letters. It’s worthy of readers’ attention– and, dare your correspondent suggest, of their support.

* Jazz giant Charlie Parker would hang around a jukebox at one of the clubs he frequented, putting his coins in to play country-western songs. When friends finally asked him, “Why do you listen to that stuff?,” he reportedly replied, “It’s the stories, man, it’s the stories!” (source)…  not altogether apropos, your correspondent confesses; but it is an awesome anecdote…

As we luxuriate in good literature, we might recall that it was on this date in 1812, just before he published the first two cantos of Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage, that George Gordon Byron, 6th Baron Byron– aka Lord Byron– made his first speech in the House of Lords…  as it happens, a defense of Luddite violence against Industrialism in his home county of Nottinghamshire.

Byron in 1813, in Albanian dress, as painted by Thomas Phillips

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