I’ve moved over to Typepad, so to go to the new site please click this link and adjust your feeds and links appropriately: thejohnfox.com
I’m back from my Belizean honeymoon all fired up for 2007. Whoopee! That’s what scuba diving in the carribean and cave tubing will do for you. Now I promised a report on the reading going on down there in Central America, and I always make good on my promises, so here: I reread Richard Ford’s Rock Springs (Great short stories set in Montana) started John Banville’s The Sea, and got most of the way through Mrs. BookFox’s selection, Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma. On that last title, I can’t remember a time when a non-fiction book threatened my lifestyle so much. I can’t eat now. In every little morsel I see Corn: corn starch, corn syrup, and chemicals-I-can’t-pronounce-made-from-corn. And even with my organic food, I think (derisively) “this is only commercial organic.” Although I couldn’t imagine a better book to inform you of all the ways your food is killing you, I can’t help but feel sorry for anyone who reads it, simply because they’re in for a whole helping of lifestyle-change. And if I thought Mrs. BookFox was picky about restaurants before . . .
One of my readers asked me to report on how the bookstores were down in Belize, so I will. I didn’t see any. The only collections of books I found were ones at Hostels and Internet Cafe’s and Travel Agents, available on a book-swap basis, and these collections consisted of a heaping mess of irksome pop trash with the occasional tolerable title. Luckily for me, I happened upon quite a good book – a nice hardback of Kiran Desai’s The Inheritance of Loss, not only a relatively new title but one that won the 2006 Man Booker prize. I pilfered a loose copy of some James Patterson paperback in my hotel room and traded it for the Desai copy – now that’s a great trade.
Tomorrow I will double my teampower by marrying a wonderful woman who shall be dubbed Mrs. BookFox (at least online). So please enjoy some of the other book blogs in the blogosphere as I take a honeymoon until January 8th. Best wishes from Belize, where doubtless I will have at least some time on the beach to read, and once I’m back maybe I’ll even give a report on what tomes Mrs. BookFox is reading.
- Orhan Pamuk’s Nobel Lecture.
- Conversational Reading’s Epiphany on how Walker Percy’s The Moviegoer critiques space (or the lack of a defined, unique space).
- Syntax of Things makes a list of Underrated Writers.
- Lastly, Pinky’s Paperhaus comments on After the MFA’s post about whether MFAs should take Lit Crit Class.
On that last link . . .
My opinion is that reading books and critiquing them is good (big news flash, eh?) but that Lit Crit, as performed by an English PHD, is very different than reading and critiquing as a writer. PHD programs are so inundated by critical theory nowadays that they very rarely read as writers – that is, they don’t read for the things that the author intends to put inside the book, and there is less and less overlap between authorial intention and critical commentary.
After going through a MA program with a heavy dose of literary theory at New York University (but what program doesn’t rely heavily on literary theory for literary criticism?) and then transferring to an MFA at USC, I realized that the two ways of speaking were completely different. In essence, I had to re-learn how to use language (I nearly said utilize instead of use – that would be Theory-speak). I also had to re-tool how I read, and start to read as a writer looking to glean technique rather than a critic looking to trampoline off the original text and create a new one that deconstructs the original.
So it’s really impossible to talk about Lit Crit nowadays without referencing and dealing with Literary Theory. And since literary theory is so much a part of Lit Crit, a writer is much better off sticking to an MFA rather than a PHD. A writer is also better off not doing Lit Crit classes in an MFA, unless the workshop is run by a writer rather than an academic (English PHD).
More bad news: in recognizing the “blogosphere”, Tanenhaus disparages us (yet again, yet again) as sloppy writers. I insist to the New York Times Book Review staff that the best bloggers out here (and I volunteer to be on the team) can at least hold our own, and could possibly kick the Book Review’s ass in a grammar/style face-off. I hereby offer a challenge.
Bloggers VS Tanenhaus and the NYTBR.
In a pay-per-view match, a tag-team from the blogosphere will take on the fearsome establishment of the New York Times Book Review. See Ed, Max and Mark perform syntactical judo moves with arm twists of grammatical rules on Sam and Rachel.
This asskicking will be dirty.
As I suspected back in October from the vitriolic reviews by Marilynne Robinson and Terry Eagleton, Richard Dawkin’s God Delusion is the most overrated book of the year. Here’s the list of the other overrated and underrated books (hat tip to Ed)
Addendum: Rake’s Progress on Murakami’s political involvement
I-keep-finding-great-stuff Addendum: Foer (as in Jonathan Safran fame) World Domination coming soon.
Labels: Richard Dawkins
So since I had scored on a copy of Hear the Wind Sing (unavailable in the States) I thought why not go for broke and ask my loyal readers for a copy of Pinball 1973? It was mostly tongue in cheek, but lo and behold, Viktor JaniÅ¡ emails me the Pinball text. Mucho thanks, my friend, mucho. Also, a grateful nod to The Literary Saloon who directed him to my site. Now to start reading . . .
Labels: Haruki Murakami