I love cats!
Anything is not better
If you have a cat
don't come near
my Dad is allergic to
The Kellys and the O'Kellys was not a commercial success. It was published - perhaps unluckily - in the same year as Thackeray's Vanity Fair, Dickens's Dombey and Son and Gaskell's Mary Barton, all addressing the issue of what was wrong with life. The Kellys and the O'Kellys evoked much that was right. It must have seemed bland. It failed, selling 140 copies and earning Trollope no money. Although it was written in a wholly different tone from his first novel, The Macdermots of Ballycloran, its author gained no points for exhibiting his versatility. Both novels, scholars now feel, suffered commercially from being about Ireland - the famine was raging, and the English reading public did not want to think about it. It was destined to be a sleeper - a thoughtful, subtle novel published in an anxious year.
But one of England's greatest novelists had laid out his tools for all to see - the grace of his writing, the worldliness of his vision, the variety of his characters and scenes, the expansiveness of his geography. The story itself is the important thing, not the satiric tone, as in Thackeray, the social criticism, as in Gaskell, or the stylistic exuberance, as in Dickens. He delivered the whole package, but it was a modestly wrapped package and got lost. (read the rest here)
I have written before about how well I think Smiley talks about Trollope.At the TLS, critic and novelist David Lodge writes with both pathos and humour about his hearing loss:
You might think that of all the professions a novelist is least affected by hearing loss and, up to a point, that is true. We compose books in silence, consumed in silence by solitary readers.
However, deafness restricts and thins out the supply of new ideas and experience on which the novelist depends to create his fictions. That former nun’s life story might have been priceless “material” and I regret its loss. I miss opportunities to eavesdrop on humanly revealing conversations on buses and in shops and to keep up with new idioms, coinages and catch-phrases that give flavour and authenticity to dialogue in a novel of contemporary life. (read the rest here)
Hmm: "it’s a cast-iron excuse for declining to serve on committees"? That might offset a lot of the disadvantages...
It's amazing to think that 150 years ago, the British Empire was ruled by an actual married woman. As Emma Donoghue reminds us in her marvellous new novel, wives in the Victorian era were usually classed with "criminals, lunatics and children": devoid of legal identity, stripped of property, limited in their opportunities for paid work.I wasn't that taken with Slammerkin when I read it about a year ago (as George Eliot remarked a long time ago, historical fiction is a particularly demanding genre, though the risks are often underestimated). But I'll probably give this one a try, just to keep up-to-date on my neo-Victorian options.
By way of illustration, she has chosen a thoroughly riveting courtroom drama. The Sealed Letter is a fictionalized version of the Codrington divorce case, which had le tout London squirming in its pantaloons over several months in 1864. Juicy, vicious, elegant and thoughtful, the book is a valuable addition to Donoghue's growing corpus of fine historical novels (including Life Mask and Slammerkin). (read the rest here)
After eighty years of experimenting with the study of literature as an academic subject, those carrying it out (myself included) have made a complete hash of it. Literature itself is held in contempt not just by the majority of ordinary people but by those professing to teach it. "Literature Professor" has become a near-synonym of "lunatic." That literary study would come to such an end was probably inevitable, since the primary imperative of academe--to create "new" knowledge--is finally inimical to something so difficult to dress up in fashionable critical clothes as serious works of fiction or poetry. Once it was perceived that "aesthetic complexity" was a spent force (at least as the means for producing new monographs and journal articles), approaches to literature that essentially abandoned its consideration as an art form were practically certain to follow.
Nearly three years later, a conversation touching on many similar points is unfolding in a comments thread at The Valve even as Ronan MacDonald is announcing the death of the critic. Well, give us credit, at least, for not going gentle into that good night! Indeed, critics appear to have co-opted the story of their impending demise as yet another subcategory of metacriticism.
I don't suppose that my own classroom is either wholly typical or exemplary, but I think it might contribute somewhat to the demystification of our profession, now that the teaching term is underway, to make it a regular feature of my blog to outline what lies in store for me and my students each week.(April 16 update: Somewhat more temperate but equally dismissive attitudes appeared again here just this morning). The resulting entries range from brief commentaries on key passages to meditations on larger critical or theoretical issues prompted by a particular reading or class discussion (on October 1, for instance, there's some of each); from notes on pedagogical strategies or favourite discussion topics (such as 'giant hairball' day) to protracted afterthoughts on the central issues of a class meeting or reading (such as the didactic or instructional aspects of 19th-century courtship and marriage novels).
Even after the confession and conviction of the killer in 1865, the case was attended with doubts and unease. Wilkie Collins' The Moonstone - described by TS Eliot as the first and the best detective novel - was suffused with the events at Road Hill. "It is a very curious story," observed Dickens when the book was published in 1868, "wild and yet domestic."Also at the Guardian, Ian Rankin reviews Summerscale's book on the case's chief investigator, Inspector Whicher. Actually, he doesn't so much review it as recapitulate its central story; there's only one word in the piece that really constitutes any kind of comment on the book itself--fortunately for Summerscale, it's "engrossing."
Collins diluted the horror - instead of a child-murder, there was a jewel theft; instead of bloodstains, splashes of paint - but he fashioned from it a template for detective fiction. A shrewd investigator strives to expose the secrets of the inhabitants of an English country house. His task is to distinguish the innocent from the guilty, real clues from red herrings. His methods are indirect, his reasoning inspired, and a highly improbable suspect turns out to have committed the crime. The novel borrowed many of the specifics of the Road Hill story: a sullied and missing nightdress; a laundry book that proves its loss; an inept local police officer; and a renowned detective summoned to the countryside from London. (read the rest here)
At first sight, the displacement of Theory, with its social constructivism and linguistic idealism, by talk of something as solid as “the brain” of the writer and “the brain” of the reader may seem like progress. In fact, it is a case of plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose. The switch from Theory to “biologism” leaves something essential unchanged: the habit of the uncritical application of very general ideas to works of literature, whose distinctive features, deliberate intentions and calculated virtues are consequently lost. Overstanding is still on the menu.Much of his discussion is focused on A. S. Byatt's work on John Donne:
...by adopting a neurophysiological approach, Byatt loses a rather large number of important distinctions: between reading one poem by John Donne and another; between successive readings of a particular poem; between reading Donne and other Metaphysical poets; between reading the Metaphysicals and reading William Carlos Williams; between reading great literature and trash; between reading and a vast number of other activities – such as getting cross over missing toilet paper. That is an impressive number of distinctions for a literary critic to lose. But that is the price of overstanding. (read the rest here)Finally, over at The Valve, the guys have been talking (again) about The Sopranos, Deadwood, and The Wire. I wonder: are these really the 'three most talked about HBO series'? Wouldn't that depend on who you're talking to? For instance, perhaps women viewers talk more about other shows--ones that aren't characterized by "boobs, cussing, and spectacular violence"? Sex and the City comes to mind, for instance. (OK, in its own way it has two of those three elements...)
On Friday, April 11th, 2008 at 12:00pm Eastern Time, the 12,500 strong members of a hastily arranged Facebook group entitled “Save Classical Music at the CBC” will be holding a NATIONAL DAY OF ACTION called “RAISE A RUCKUS FOR RADIO TWO!” in over a dozen cities across Canada.
In response to recently announced programming changes at CBC Radio Two and the planned axing of the famed CBC Vancouver Radio Orchestra, classical music fans, musicians and Radio Two listeners are planning to take to the streets in front of their local CBC installations in every province simultaneously. Demonstrations are to be held at CBC facilities in Victoria, Vancouver, Edmonton, Calgary, Saskatoon, Winnipeg, Toronto, London, Ottawa, Montreal, Halifax, Charlottetown and St. John’s; with possible demonstrations to be held in Regina, Kingston, ON, and Saint John, NB as well.
Negative hermeneutics has never been Hardy's mode, and her determination to take seriously what Eliot said said, without suspicion and cynicism as a premise of the reading, is one thing that might make this anti-biography suspect to modern critics. But that determination becomes a form of negative capability that is one of the most moving and satisfying aspects of the book. For Hardy, Eliot wrote as if she meant what she said and she said what she meant. In critical circles, this is an astonishingly fresh argument these days. (100)I've put it at the top of my "t0 read" pile.
"[P]ostcolonial critics inevitably homogenize as 'imperialist' critics did before them. The difference is that they typically profess an awareness of the problematics to a degree the others did not."Subcategory B: Inadvertant Irony and Foregone Conclusions
"[Postcolonial cultural studies] involves a dialogue leading to the significant insight that the Western paradigm (Manichean and binary) is highly problematical."
The essays in this volume attach Middlemarch to the twenty-first century by way of their aesthetic, ethical, and social concerns, but each reading also dwells within the confines of the pages of the novel and its communities. We move constantly between the early and later nineteenth century and to the start of the twenty-first century, respecting the differences without allowing them to become obstacles in our way. (4)That’s all fine, and so are the essays I’ve read, though to be sure I find some of them more engaging than others. What I’ve been thinking as I read, though, is that really none of them really presents a version of Middlemarch for the 21st century: that is, none of them addresses ways Middlemarch (or, for that matter, any other past literary work) might have special relevance in the 21st century beyond those interpretive contexts selected by the contributors--none of which contexts, in turn, seems pointedly or necessarily fixed in the 21st century (except by accident of critical history, e.g. “this year, we’re doing materiality,” or “Lacanian readings are so 1990s”). I think it’s accurate to say that typically we take our “aesthetic, ethical, and social concerns” to our texts and see how they answer back. Is there a way to “attach” them to our century starting, as it were, from the other direction? How might Middlemarch, for instance, “read” the 21st century? What “aesthetic, ethical, and social concerns” might it bring to us? What would such a criticism look like? What (or who) would it be for?