Literary fuses II

December 27, 2008 § Leave a comment

#1 Stanley Crouch’s Don’t the Moon Look Lonesome
It’s a book I wanted to like. I like his total perspective that doesn’t cave in to unscientific race babble. He wants to dig at the sore pick the wound. Even though the book is here with me I feel it chained to the author’s mind. The feeling that he is still writing it. It is a composition of arias. Strung together. Deep conversations keep popping out of nowhere to analyze the black white situation in America. Some of this material has been done over via Baldwin in Another Country.
SC takes the amateur techniques
a) interior monologue
b) meaningful exposition
…vices of young writers…I agree with so much of what he says about race but he drops into essays….insistence on the middle class as the breeding ground of all civilized things. He despises, rightly, the fake gangsta chic that has taken hold among black kids.He was not inventive enough. He stuck to the old interior monologue scheme and failed. I submit that we – the mind – never says “however” to itself while thinking. So many false notes wrong notes of tone of carriage (my literary term as in “no carriage”). You can see that he lacks the gift of dramatization. This does not have to be a total defect. He should have done like Manuel Puig and written a dialogue novel – or La Celestina – a novel in dramatic dialogue. But some of his arias and catching the black idiom are simply grand – the frank discussion of bodies, that no area of life, of body, goes unchecked.

#2 T.C. Boyle is content to run a highlighter pen across social and journalistic situations. Gone the sense of discovery in his fiction; it is all rendering, expertly done of course, but full of cheap shots and pandering to our recognition. We’ve done Dickens for god’s sake. Enough already.

#3 Gabriel Garcia Marquez’ true model is Pliny the Elder. He – Pliny – recounts fabulous tales and “facts” with a deadpan objectivity, wild tales and bogus illustrations of animal lore and far off countries and customs…

#4 If I taught poetry class I would set up a few rules:
a. Down with Pathetic Fallicy- no more sensitive waves or happy clouds. Nature ain’t us or ain’t about us. The “ambivalent” surf, surely the “indifferent” surf is meant here.
b. Don’t make things do what they don’t do: the pinecones rang in the green steeples on the hillside (when describing a stand of pines). There are no bell like sounds coming from trees and esp not from pine cones. They may look like bells but they are non-ringing-quiet bells…
c. Watch your verbs…”doused” with flour? (after frolicking in a bakery); sorry, douse is to extinguish with liquid or plunge a thing into liquid. i suppose you can use powder to de-louse but not douse. Or how about screeching sun? Does the sun make noise? Small shards of rock…aren’t shards usually already small…on and on…
d. Poetry is not an excuse to be poetic. No adjectives as nouns: Coins of perfect clear appear under my feet: clear what? I want to ask…
e. Poetry is not an excuse to wax poetic.

#5 It is unreasonable to expect Americans to be interested in novels or poetry. We do not possess the extended sympathy required to share what the aims of a novel are. We do not know how to ask questions or carry on conversations. It is a tall order to ask Americans to get involved with imaginary characters unless those characters reflect themselves or echo their own mundane and cliché ridden selves. We do not have sufficient civilization to extend ourselves beyond kids and jobs into the imaginative worlds that novels offer. Forget character. Unless that character is outstanding…Remember: everyone thinks about himself first and foremost.

#6 Reading Rick DeMarinis’ short stories: lively, funny, poignant, clever, vivid. Then, you get restless; that sense that the author knows his characters too well which leads to stage management; sins I include here:
a) What he does for a living (info dumps: you try the reader’s patience; the set up; very few of these set ups are intrinsic to the story; mostly they just succeed in showing the author’s intelligence before a broad range of data – about work, life, school, psychology; the rush to inform is a sign of weakness, or nerves such as at a cocktail party: “and what do you do?” think of Chekov; he disposes of information as an aside to get you into the story not to show off his cleverness. This is so hard to do it even fouls an expert like RD.
b) What he looks like (looking in the mirror) more manipulative information;
c) Setting boundaries of character early on and knocking them over (the conservative man whose life is turned topsy turvy by a cad).
d) The basic problem of the short story as practiced in America; since there is no hook or strong conceit then the writer has to perform in a vacuum; if you do without conceit you must be subtle; RD is so smart and there is so much going on that you can only think: this writer is smart ; and the first person preclude the necessary oxygen of other perspectives that make a short story happen.
e) This is my impatience with the short story;
f) But then; he puts one right in your head between your eyes: Novias the guy can write and here is proof;
g) The problem of fiction is the problem of knowledge; how do you get to know things? You learn things along with the narrator or does he feed you as you go?

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