Re: They were already despicable; now they're despicably ballsy.

1

You're on fire Heebie-G!


Posted by: W. Breeze | Link to this comment | 01- 5-10 1:46 PM
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Hmm. Seems like basically a publicity grab by the site. A good one, too.


Posted by: Counterfly | Link to this comment | 01- 5-10 1:56 PM
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vaguely related:
http://psychologyofbeauty.wordpress.com/2009/10/25/androgyny-capitulates-to-cosmetology/

via Delong. And I love the title.


Posted by: Michael H Schneider | Link to this comment | 01- 5-10 2:01 PM
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I think Kate Harding nails it on this one:

It's a nasty statement, no doubt designed to make people like me blog furiously about the cruelty and injustice of it. Problem is, I don't really care. The word "fatties" doesn't scandalize me, and I can't say I'm surprised to learn that a dating site that forces potential members through the "Hot or Not" gauntlet encourages sizeism. I'm going to go out on a limb and say I bet it also privileges young, able-bodied people with shiny hair, clear skin and sparkly white teeth; that is, as Hintze says, "the business model and the very concept." So why am I bothering to give this non-story any attention at all? Because it's a good opportunity to talk about the difference between real problems and easily ignored jackassery.

Posted by: Blume | Link to this comment | 01- 5-10 2:02 PM
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I applaud their internal consistency. And there's nothing particularly ballsy, in the sense of courting risk, about what they did: I'd never heard of them before and now they're well-known, so they'll gain more members through publicity than they've lost through the axing. The only way they seem to get any publicity is by being mean, anyway; their last media surge was for labeling Brits to be among the "ugliest people in the world."


Posted by: PGofHSM | Link to this comment | 01- 5-10 2:21 PM
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the difference between real problems and easily ignored jackassery.

And that's what's wrong with Unfogged.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 01- 5-10 2:22 PM
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Easily ignored jackassery has IMPORTANT IMPLICATIONS!!!!


Posted by: Megan | Link to this comment | 01- 5-10 2:24 PM
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It occurs to me that when someone writes "Problem is, I don't really care," she cares quite a bit.


Posted by: Flippanter | Link to this comment | 01- 5-10 2:33 PM
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8: If romantic comedies are any guide, you are more that correct.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01- 5-10 2:35 PM
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Ugh. And yet, this will spawn ever more posts on the tyranny of beauty. Which is not something I'm uninterested in--but it really can get ugly. I once read a thread in which a guy claimed that it was anti-feminist for women to privilege looks in men, because it was undermining the very interests of feminism to objectify the opposite sex, because two standards don't make a right. See aso threads about redirecting "gaze" and whether that's appropriate or not.

In other, less controversial news, it's the new year, and and because new years mean ends and beginnings, I've decided to let go of the sad Abigail Adams/Ruth Bader Ginsburg nom de unfoggeds, and try to embrace a new path as best I can. So my experiment in less brutal online dating seems to be going well enough. This weekend, a new, awesome man who really likes me is making me pizza while I play with his kittens and watch a movie.


Posted by: Belle Lettre | Link to this comment | 01- 5-10 2:35 PM
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making me pizza while I play with his kittens

Belle, just remember that he can't make you pizza if you really don't want to. (Come to think of it, how do you pizza?)


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01- 5-10 2:38 PM
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The implications seem positive to me. For a long time, I've had a problem with the "everyone must feel beautiful all the time" message, which is always combined with the capitalist counterpart, "you are currently unacceptable, but could be if you had enough money to buy this thing."

Beauty-worship works in tandem with capitalism-worship, and along very similar lines. Plenty of people who don't have a lot of money still think capitalism shows us who the brightest and hardest working people are, because they aspire to be financially successful in ways that deeply affirm their value, or else out of a sense of self-loathing. Similarly, average-looking sorts still worship beauty as indicative of personal worth, probably out of similar aspirations or self-loathing.

I think it's good when we're reminded that these systems of value are hostile to us, that they don't need or want us to "succeed," that they are by nature exclusive. Hopefully, it reminds those of us who don't measure up that not everyone needs to be "beautiful" or "rich" to deserve love, happiness, etc.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 01- 5-10 2:40 PM
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11: Argh, I was cringing when I saw that after posted and predicting that from someone (Wolfson mostly). I figure it involves lots of twirling and flipping.


Posted by: Belle Lettre | Link to this comment | 01- 5-10 2:41 PM
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Awesome, Belle.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 01- 5-10 2:42 PM
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(Come to think of it, how do you pizza?)

First, you drink a lot of za.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 01- 5-10 2:42 PM
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Thanks, Bostoniangirl!


Posted by: Belle Lettre | Link to this comment | 01- 5-10 2:42 PM
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13: I was going to make a bad joke on play with his kittens, but thought it would be piling on after 11.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01- 5-10 2:43 PM
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12 is an interesting take. Sort of "the proleteriat needs to be weaned from their opiods and feel their pain to wake up" kinda thing.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 01- 5-10 2:44 PM
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1: Thanks! Positive reinforcement will help me keep up this snappy pace.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 01- 5-10 2:45 PM
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Piling on is encouraged -- it's how we express warm affirmation around here. I think that's right, anyway.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01- 5-10 2:45 PM
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Yay happy dating, Belle! Yay pizza!


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 01- 5-10 2:45 PM
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Piling on only works if the jokes get better or build on the previous. "Kittens = Balls" doesn't meet that standard.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01- 5-10 2:47 PM
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Beauty-worship works in tandem with capitalism-worship, and along very similar lines.

I think it would be "capital worship." What did beauty worship work in tandem with before capitalism, because surely the phenomenon existed?


Posted by: Flippanter | Link to this comment | 01- 5-10 2:51 PM
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22: And it could get worse -- I could make some terrible joke about if Belle is going to let him play with her kitten.


Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 01- 5-10 2:53 PM
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The counterpart to it is that I really don't see what kind of happiness being beautiful brings. Being acceptable-looking surely has professional and personal advantages, but the drop-dead stunning do not, I think, have an easy time. That blog everyone's been linking to about beauty has something up about how a certain amount of beauty is tied to higher wages, but the effect disappears at the higher ends of "beautiful." Whether that's due to unreasonably high expectations or lower expectations, I'm not sure.

If being beautiful means you get to date the kind of assholes who would only date beautiful people, I'm not interested. That's not to say I am not also deeply affected by beauty, but I can't say it provokes feelings or actions in me that I'm proud of.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 01- 5-10 2:53 PM
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I'm extremely beautiful and my life is a never-ending cavalcade of delights. Sounds like sour grapes to me, AWB.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 01- 5-10 2:57 PM
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23: Yes, capital-worship is right. I guess beauty has always been tied to social class, right? Good breeding, the right to sit indoors and not have rough hands, access to beautiful clothing and servants to put it on you, nourishing food to eat, and all that?


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 01- 5-10 2:58 PM
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27: Sure, but what about the Cinderella myth?


Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 01- 5-10 3:00 PM
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The counterpart to it is that I really don't see what kind of happiness being beautiful brings.

Vicariously, it seems to be the sort of happiness that is impossible for the people who experience it to communicate, more powerful than the ordinary emotions of satisfaction and contentment by far, but so fleeting and fragile, and attracting such predatory attention, that one might be better off not to have known it.


Posted by: Flippanter | Link to this comment | 01- 5-10 3:02 PM
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Her beauty is what proves that she naturally belongs to the royal class, right? I'm not sure about this.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 01- 5-10 3:03 PM
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The main reason I would like to be beautiful, these days, is that I like beauty, and I like me, and wouldn't it be nice to have both of those things in a single package? Plus, then it would be so much fun to dress myself. But if I had been stunningly beautiful all along, it presumably would have distorted my life in a bunch of ways, none of which I can imagine having been for the better.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 01- 5-10 3:04 PM
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Similarly, average-looking sorts still worship beauty as indicative of personal worth, probably out of similar aspirations or self-loathing.

I'd say probably because they want to have sex with hot people and they want to be hot because that increases the potential partner pool paisley potato peeler.


Posted by: togolosh | Link to this comment | 01- 5-10 3:05 PM
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25: this reminds me of Alameida's post.


Posted by: Belle Lettre | Link to this comment | 01- 5-10 3:08 PM
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Oh, and this is really stupid, but I'd like my child to think I'm pretty.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 01- 5-10 3:09 PM
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The Cinderella myth only works because it is placed in a setting where beauty implies wealth. If all the peasants were hot, it wouldn't make sense, and there wouldn't be enough little birdies to make dresses.


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 01- 5-10 3:10 PM
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Ah, but you are pretty, so you probably have little to worry about.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 01- 5-10 3:12 PM
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predatory attention

Yeah, that's what scares me about it. An ex of mine was quite a handsome bisexual man trying to get a record contract, so he was always scrounging for donors wherever he could get them. People liked giving him money, and he thought it was because he was such a good musician. Over and over, donors would get really pissed off at him for not, I dunno, falling in love with them? and they'd make sure he knew they never cared about his work. It was pretty gruesome to watch.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 01- 5-10 3:13 PM
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36: thanks dude.


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 01- 5-10 3:14 PM
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Any time, bro.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 01- 5-10 3:15 PM
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30: Cinderella is in no wise royalty. She's not a peasant, either, just abused by her stepmother (who makes her load the dishwasher inefficiently and then passes pleasantries of the most agonizingly dull kind), but the prince isn't detecting secret nobility - she's just hot in a bird-made dress*.

* original fairytale features no tailorbirds - gown is from magic tree imbued by her mother's spirit


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 01- 5-10 3:16 PM
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[T]here wouldn't be enough little birdies to make dresses.

The bird couture sector is slow to respond to rising demand, but maybe they could outsource to the gentle woodland creatures.


Posted by: Flippanter | Link to this comment | 01- 5-10 3:16 PM
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40: I mean that she naturally belongs among the royal set in a way that transcends birth.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 01- 5-10 3:18 PM
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While I've struggled with body image issues and self-esteem issues surrounding that throughout my teens and early twenties, by now I've come to be relatively content with how I look and confident that there will be some subset of people who find me attractive, at least by their subjective standards of beauty, and perhaps even by whatever artificial object standards of beauty. But it is still strange for me to hear that someone thinks I'm beautiful, and be told it repeatedly and adoringly. So while I'm aware of the pretty privilege, I don't tend to rely on it or abuse it. It must be hard to be at either end of the spectrum--to believe yourself too ugly to deserve ___, or to believe yourself too beautiful to be denied _____. When you land somewhere in the middle or at least have the perspective that beauty and attraction are highly subjective and idiosyncratic, it makes it easier to manage your beauty capital as something that you are only occasionally conscious enough to trade with.


Posted by: Belle Lettre | Link to this comment | 01- 5-10 3:25 PM
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42: Aristocrats are pretty often depicted as children of nature, by roundheads ("Those savage aristocrats! See what decadent squalor they delight in! Their violence! Their rutting ways!") and cavaliers ("The very trees seem to bow to His Grace; stones roll out of his way to spare the royal feet"*) alike. It doesn't seem very far to go from "princess of nature" to "princess by nature."

* I seem to recall something reminiscent of this in Anthony Lane's recent NYer piece about Grace Kelly.


Posted by: Flippanter | Link to this comment | 01- 5-10 3:28 PM
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Did male beauty allow the possessor to obtain wealth/position/leisure in pre-capitalist times? I can see how it did for women (they could be wives/ mistresses), but assuming a population that's only 10% gay at most and a society in which women can hold wealth only indirectly (i.e. by being related to or having sex with the real owner), I don't see how beautiful men could get much out of their beauty other than sex itself.


Posted by: PGofHSM | Link to this comment | 01- 5-10 3:31 PM
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I can't not link to this in a thread about beauty.


Posted by: Amber | Link to this comment | 01- 5-10 3:33 PM
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45: Cough ancient Sparta cough Alexander and Hephaistion cough Edward II cough various mid-20th century Anglo-American writers' social diaries cough.


Posted by: Flippanter | Link to this comment | 01- 5-10 3:35 PM
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45: Men admire other men for being attractive -- it's not a straight quid pro quo situation if they're both straight ("Ooo, if I do nice stuff for him, maybe I'll get some"), but being pretty makes you more likable even to people who don't want to fuck you. Think of things like "The Book of the Courtier", which is a manual for social and political advancement through being attractive and appealing.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01- 5-10 3:36 PM
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45: It was the Judgment of Paris, not the Judgment of Hercules.


Posted by: Flippanter | Link to this comment | 01- 5-10 3:38 PM
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Hercules never had terribly good judgment. Who puts a shirt on without noticing it's soaked in poison?


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01- 5-10 3:39 PM
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50: Maybe he was tired. Do you think cleaning those stables was easy? What about deflowering fifty virgins in one night? A fellow has to carb up for something like that.


Posted by: Flippanter | Link to this comment | 01- 5-10 3:40 PM
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a certain amount of beauty is tied to higher wages, but the effect disappears at the higher ends of "beautiful

Wasn't this a contention in ye olde feminist threads? That there's a threshold of beauty beyond which people and/or guys don't much distinguish?

Or wait, is the linked claim that the ultra-beautiful get paid like shlubs? I would expect a flattening/diminishing returns, although I suppose a dynamic by which the ultra-beautiful are presumed to be talentless is also imaginable.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 01- 5-10 3:41 PM
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42: Thought you might. Ideas about "natural nobility" and the like.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 01- 5-10 3:42 PM
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Wow, that's a lot of pwning from 44.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 01- 5-10 3:43 PM
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||

I first met the objectively beautiful AB on this day, 10 years ago.

|>


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 01- 5-10 3:45 PM
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mid-20th century Anglo-American writers' social diaries cough.

cough pre-capitalist cough


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 01- 5-10 3:46 PM
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54: I know that my Redeemer pwneth.


Posted by: Flippanter | Link to this comment | 01- 5-10 3:46 PM
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55: congrats!


Posted by: Belle Lettre | Link to this comment | 01- 5-10 3:46 PM
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47, 56: Either of you guys need a throat lozenge?


Posted by: Otto von Bisquick | Link to this comment | 01- 5-10 3:48 PM
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56: Cough well, many of them were unemployedable cough.


Posted by: Flippanter | Link to this comment | 01- 5-10 3:48 PM
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Yay, decade!


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01- 5-10 3:48 PM
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I loved the 30 Rock episode in which Liz starts dating her neighbor, played by Jon Hamm, who seems at first to be a wildly accomplished doctor who bakes, plays pro-level tennis, handles social situations with perfect ease, etc., but it turns out he's actually a moron who's terrible at everything and really awkward. Everyone just flatters him all the time because he's handsome.

It's a funny episode, but I have known people who had this paranoia that this was what was happening to them, that they're actually not very smart, charming, lovable, or accomplished, but just good-looking. At first, I was all "boo-hoo," but it would be sort of crazy-making.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 01- 5-10 3:51 PM
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...actually a moron who's terrible at everything and really awkward. Everyone just flatters him all the time because he's handsome.

Well, three out of four ain't bad.


Posted by: Flippanter | Link to this comment | 01- 5-10 3:52 PM
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That was a great episode, and it was great that they called the beauty privilege "living inside the bubble." I especially liked the line "I don't like living outside of the bubble. It's ironic." Liz: "That's not what that word means!" Jon Hamm: "I don't care."


Posted by: Belle Lettre | Link to this comment | 01- 5-10 3:53 PM
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I'm always worried that, because I'm a great cook, brilliant architect, doting yet stern parent, and extraordinary lover, people exaggerate my beauty.

Mirror, tell me true!


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 01- 5-10 3:53 PM
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As long as you've got your penis sheath it's all good.


Posted by: Not Prince Hamlet | Link to this comment | 01- 5-10 3:55 PM
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64: That reminds me of a pretty frequent exchange with a friend of mine:

Friend: "That doesn't make sense."

Flippanter: "I'm tired of your 'that doesn't make sense' attitude! I hate you!"


Posted by: Flippanter | Link to this comment | 01- 5-10 4:00 PM
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* original fairytale features no tailorbirds - gown is from magic tree imbued by her mother's spirit

The birds do drop the dress down to her though. And they help her by picking up the lentils.

I just last month graded a set of papers in which I took off half-lettergrades for using the deprecated term "original fairytale." You mean the multiform recorded (/composed) by the Grimms!

(All pedantry arising directly from the uselessness of this knowledge.)


Posted by: Blume | Link to this comment | 01- 5-10 4:04 PM
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It's not useless if you can make undergraduates feel bad.

Is that the kind of thing I should be putting in my teaching statement?


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 01- 5-10 4:17 PM
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Capital = beauty!

Guillotines for the beautiful people!


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 01- 5-10 4:18 PM
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And they help her by picking up the lentils.

I was going to mention this, but I didn't want to be pedantic.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 01- 5-10 4:22 PM
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using the deprecated term "original fairytale."

I just wanted to distinguish between Grimm (and antecedents) and Disney, really. In addition to cute widdle animals, Disney makes Cindy's family out to be quasi-noble.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 01- 5-10 4:26 PM
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I know I'm just an engineer and stuff, mostly fit for brute labor, but I have to say. When I read things like this or this, for a good portion of the piece, I literally don't understand the sentences they write. I can't follow the thesis at all, or understand how the logic builds. I don't have the underlying assumptions or the concentration for paragraphs or something. Do you people who studied humanities understand writing like that? Understand them well enough to agree or disagree on them? I keep assuming that you do, because who else would the authors be writing to. But maybe no one really makes sense of them and Enron isn't making money and the Emporer has no clothes.


Posted by: Megan | Link to this comment | 01- 5-10 4:27 PM
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Well, those two pieces are both shit, so that may have something to do with it.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 01- 5-10 4:35 PM
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On the Roiphe piece.


Posted by: Belle Lettre | Link to this comment | 01- 5-10 4:41 PM
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I find the second one kind kind of unreadable. The first one is readable but doesn't really have a point other than to indicate that Stephen Metcalf went to Exeter and "A Separate Peace" isn't quite good enough to write a fiftieth anniversary essay about.


Posted by: Lemmy Caution | Link to this comment | 01- 5-10 4:46 PM
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I thought the point of the first one was that Gene and Phineas must must must be gay, and because they aren't, the book fails, but oh well, there's good writing in it, so let's let it stick around.

It made sense to me but it didn't make sense to me: A Separate Peace is a basically silly book on its own terms and Teh Gay Separate Peace would be just as silly. Albeit a silly book with some good writing in it.


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 01- 5-10 4:52 PM
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||

Wow, we've got a lot of snow! (For this country, etc etc.) Just went outside to look at it, and realised my 7 yo was waving out the window at me. Called her down and took her and the dog for a little wander. About 5 or 6 inches in places, and still snowing. We have some weird weather system in place that is rotating rather than going anywhere, so it might carry on snowing here for another 12 hours!

I'm hoping Kid A's school is shut in the morning - this afternoon they were being all gung ho about staying open.

|>


Posted by: asilon | Link to this comment | 01- 5-10 4:53 PM
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Wow, that Separate Peace article was shitty. I wonder if part of going to Exeter means you get to spend the rest of your life complaining about how awful and demeaning and emotionally crippling it was to go to Exeter. Every E grad I've ever met complains endlessly about how degrading it was, how they'll never ever get over how unhappy they were there, and how freeing it must have been to go to public school.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 01- 5-10 4:58 PM
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73:Didn't read the first, but since the second didn't use "parataxis" or mention Heidegger, it hardly counts as humanities writing.

I mean that shit was tame.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 01- 5-10 4:59 PM
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I didn't get far into either of them. The Separate Peace article is boring. The other one made me say, 'Oh look, Katie Roiphe is setting up feminists as the foils to her earthy common sense AGAIN. I think I'll pass.'


Posted by: Blume | Link to this comment | 01- 5-10 5:01 PM
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Every E grad I've ever met complains endlessly about how degrading it was, how they'll never ever get over how unhappy they were there, and how freeing it must have been to go to public school.

That means they loved it. My father and uncle never talk about their miserable time at prep school during the '50s.


Posted by: Flippanter | Link to this comment | 01- 5-10 5:03 PM
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I wonder if part of going to Exeter means you get to spend the rest of your life complaining about how awful and demeaning and emotionally crippling it was to go to Exeter.

This is not true of Exeter grads I know. YMMV.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 01- 5-10 5:04 PM
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OK, but I mean "read those articles" on a more fundamental level.

On the first page of the Separate Piece one, I'm fairly sure I could tell you what paragraphs 1, 2, and 5 meant.

But I can usually, like, read stuff and understand it, and paragraphs 3, 4, 6 and 7 don't make sense to me. Something derives from the thing itself? What? How? "The book is impossible to read as intended: straight." Did we agree that it is impossible to read like that? When? On what basis? Am I supposed to already know, because the sophisticated audience this piece was intended for remembers that analysis?

When I don't get the thesis of every other paragraph, something's wrong. But a popular magazine paid money for a piece I can't read. Is that because I'm not the intended audience?


Posted by: Megan | Link to this comment | 01- 5-10 5:07 PM
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Cinderella's father did own the property, though, right?


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 01- 5-10 5:12 PM
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Something derives from the thing itself?

"The thing itself" in that sentence is Exeter, prep school of prep schools. But as said above by several people, that article is crap. It's hard to tell what the author's getting at overall, which is going to make it hard to get the individual paragraphs.


Posted by: Blume | Link to this comment | 01- 5-10 5:13 PM
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OT:

I know that right-thinking people hate Caitlin Flanagan, but what she says about California's public schools is pretty depressing.


Posted by: Flippanter | Link to this comment | 01- 5-10 5:14 PM
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I think his point in those paragraphs is that the book doesn't work because we don't love Phineas like Gene does, so we can't believe Gene's position of bouncing-the-branch-yet-so-not-wanting-to-bounce-the-branch-ness. Presumably this is because they are not gay enough; if they were more gay it would work.

Here are things that he does not bother providing support for: (1) we don't like Phineas like Gene does, (2) it would make sense for Gene to bounce-the-branch-yet-so-not-want-to-bounce-the-branch if they were gay.

I don't really have an explanation for those errors except, I dunno, it's the journey.


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 01- 5-10 5:14 PM
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Not "bounce the branch", you public school product. "Jounce the limb"!


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 01- 5-10 5:15 PM
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Aaack, links to both Katie Roiphe and Caitlin Flanagan in the same thread. I think I'll go poke my eye out with a pencil.


Posted by: Blume | Link to this comment | 01- 5-10 5:19 PM
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there is room in the world for two descriptors of auto-erotic behavior.


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 01- 5-10 5:19 PM
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It is really hard to write an article about how a book is good because of the prose when you're admitting in your first paragraph that you talked to someone who studies the history of prose-writing for a living and he thought that book was too shitty to even give an appraisal of. The Roiphe article seems similar. What everyone hates about these writers is the stupidity of the prose in the sex scenes, but, you see, what's great about them is the prose in the sex scenes. Roiphe and Metcalf both lack the sophistication to actually talk about prose style in terms other than "no, really! it's pretty good!" or "what, do you like all that crappy stuff i don't like?"


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 01- 5-10 5:19 PM
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I read part of that as saying "because the book isn't gay enough, it cannot be read as straight," which, um, what?


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 01- 5-10 5:19 PM
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86 - Sure, but at that point in the paragraph, the book mostly likely derived from the school campus, but maybe movies based on the book, or the book itself. I have to sort that shit out, but since the article makes other non-sensical claims, I can't rule out options 2 and 3.

I'm not actually a bad reader, and no one is defending the piece. But are there people who read this easily, getting all the allusions and agreeing with the assumptions? Like, is that what they learned while I was doing problem sets?


Posted by: Megan | Link to this comment | 01- 5-10 5:20 PM
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But are there people who read this easily, getting all the allusions and agreeing with the assumptions?

The editor of Slate attended the somewhat Exeter-like St. Albans, IIRC, so it might have sufficed if *he* got the allusions and agreed with the assumptions. But otherwise, I'm betting the answer to your question is "no", because, as others have noted, the pieced sucked.


Posted by: KR | Link to this comment | 01- 5-10 5:25 PM
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But are there people who read this easily, getting all the allusions and agreeing with the assumptions?

Well, yes. Getting the allusions, and if not agreeing with the assumptions, at least able to follow what assumptions are being made.


Posted by: Blume | Link to this comment | 01- 5-10 5:26 PM
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I don't know that I have a helpful explanation for you, Megan, but I often have the same reaction. And I was a humanities major (although this very issue caused me to decide after semester #1 not to major in English).

In my more charitable moments, I read a piece of incoherent garbage like the Roiphe thing and I think, "What a shame that her editor let her get away with such lazy writing, because there are some tendrils of interesting ideas there, and right now they're only accessible to a tiny slice of her potential audience."

Other times, I think: "What an actively anti-social waste of publishing real estate. I wonder who isn't gutsy enough to refuse to publish that?"


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 01- 5-10 5:27 PM
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Of course, it is part of my job to read incoherent crap and try to tease out whatever semblance of an argument might be there.


Posted by: Blume | Link to this comment | 01- 5-10 5:30 PM
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Maybe reading like that is a trained skill, and first-hand knowledge of the East Coast helps.


Posted by: Megan | Link to this comment | 01- 5-10 5:30 PM
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93: he's punning on straight. Because the characters are presented as straight, the book can't be read straight.

94: I think we've answered your question. The humanities enable one to identify why thinks suck.


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 01- 5-10 5:34 PM
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I'm with 98. Reading articles like Metcalf's is exactly like reading a bad undergraduate paper. I want to write in the margins, "Your quotations do not self-evidently reflect your conclusions! Explicate them!"


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 01- 5-10 5:34 PM
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OK, then, building on 98 and 101, to me the question is why do these things get published? And I go back to either laziness or active hostility. Bah.

(Scary thought: The published version wasn't the first draft. The editor did a lot of work to get it to look that good. Oh, too depressing to contemplate.)


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 01- 5-10 5:37 PM
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So Slate and New York Magazine paid writers for articles that only literature teachers can read? You must be an awfully powerful niche, to have your abilities so directly catered to.


Posted by: Megan | Link to this comment | 01- 5-10 5:37 PM
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or lit types just happen to run those particular institutions. don't you have problem sets to do?


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 01- 5-10 5:40 PM
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Heh. I think both of these are being published for their "contrarian" spirit. See, I think the most democratic thinking comes from rich white men from the 50's! And the most sexually liberated prose comes from (wait for it) rich white men from the 50's! Those were the times, weren't they? Did you know that rich white men in the 50's were also the least racist, homophobic, classist, sexist people of all time? How do I know? I wike the pwose!


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 01- 5-10 5:43 PM
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So Slate and New York Magazine

That's the New York Times magazine, and yes, they do try to reinforce the most despicable prejudices of the right.


Posted by: Michael H Schneider | Link to this comment | 01- 5-10 5:43 PM
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I think literary criticism is art or politics rather than science, rhetoric about rhetoric, and partakes of the tropes of methods of literature itself. A temporary suspension of disbelief and an initial uncritical reading is required. At least one uncritical reading, several, from different perspectives, may help.

"Call me Ishmael." WTF dude, it's only you and me, why can't you tell me your name? You start a thousand page book asking complicity in deception and inexplicable metaphor? And a command? And wait, "Call?" I'm reading, not talking.

This attitude can produce a slow unproductive reading.

"Joyce, in Ulysses, is often very reluctant to speed along the syntagmatic trail...Often it is as if he cannot bear to part with many of the paradigmatic
possibilities that have occurred to him. He will stop and climb up the paradigmatic chain on all sorts of occasions...These lists do become syntagmatic in themselves, and they further relate to other lists and other parts of the whole narrative in a syntagmatic way."

Robert Scholes (1974:188)

2nd Epigraph to Ekegren The Reading of Theoretical Texts:A Critique of Criticism 1999. The first was by Bakhtin.

Megan's question was formal, about the styles of literary criticism. Addressing the content, or escaping by saying the piece was badly written, is not helpful. She will eventually encounter other stuff.

Based on an allusion at the Valve, I spent a couple hours reading about L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E last night.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 01- 5-10 5:44 PM
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I don't think the Slate article is difficult to understand; I just think it has a lot of errors in it. E.g., I found it perfectly possible to read A Separate Peace "straight" the only time I read it -- sometime between the ages of 9 and 12 -- because back then I (a) knew very little about Homosexuality; and (b) knew a great deal about what it was like to simultaneously adore and envy and kind of hate someone of the same sex for whom life seemed effortless.

I'm not going to read the Roiphe because that generally ends in sputtering rage.


Posted by: PGofHSM | Link to this comment | 01- 5-10 5:45 PM
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87

The article seemed a little overwrought. School gardens probably don't do much good but I doubt they do much harm either. They aren't the reason blacks and hispanics aren't doing well.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 01- 5-10 5:45 PM
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@107: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lo1OnD2Rk4o


Posted by: PGofHSM | Link to this comment | 01- 5-10 5:48 PM
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From Belle's MetaFilter link in 75:

the point that Katie Roiphe seems to be missing is that, far from being novels of virility, these are novels of deep, deep anxiety. Apart from the question of what women want, the question of why she would want men to have to return to that kind of anxiety is a profound one. If that mindset is to return, not only do women have to return to the old constraints, but men have to return to the old misery.

Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 01- 5-10 5:51 PM
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Tell ya what, since most people are using Roiphe or the content of the article as some kind of answer, can we move on to the Scholes paragraph as the example used to answer Megan's question?

Certainly Scholes is reputable, and his work admired.

Can that paragraph make sense to a layperson? Why oh why do they write that way? "Trails?"


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 01- 5-10 5:59 PM
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The separate peace article was a 50th anniversary essay of a 1959 book that was published by Slate on 12/31/09. They published it because if they waited another day it would be too late.

Nobody knew the essay was going to suck until it was done, and by that time he had already re-read the book and spent the time to write the essay.


Posted by: Lemmy Caution | Link to this comment | 01- 5-10 5:59 PM
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I think literary criticism is art or politics rather than science, rhetoric about rhetoric, and partakes of the tropes of methods of literature itself. A temporary suspension of disbelief and an initial uncritical reading is required. At least one uncritical reading, several, from different perspectives, may help.

"Call me Ishmael." WTF dude, it's only you and me, why can't you tell me your name? You start a thousand page book asking complicity in deception and inexplicable metaphor? And a command? And wait, "Call?" I'm reading, not talking.

This attitude can produce a slow unproductive reading.

Bob, this is the funniest thing I've ever seen from you. Love it.

Megan's question was formal, about the styles of literary criticism. Addressing the content, or escaping by saying the piece was badly written, is not helpful. She will eventually encounter other stuff.

That's OK. I'll just know it was intended for other readers. I don't mind skipping stuff.


Posted by: Megan | Link to this comment | 01- 5-10 6:00 PM
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One of the most important things I try to get across in my lit classes is that liking prose or poetry does not mean that its assumptions or values are just or good. I don't have to defend Donne's sexual politics in order to say that he's a great poet. And if someone wanted to say, "Boy, I really wish we could get back to a Donne-era conception of sexuality," I'd hope the argument would extend beyond a defense of his poetic style.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 01- 5-10 6:05 PM
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Holy crap was that Separate Peace article bad.

In fairness, though, Exeter is a truly brutal place. So are most high schools, but you don't have to live in them full time.


Posted by: robert halford | Link to this comment | 01- 5-10 6:05 PM
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87: Shorter CF: Trendy school curriculum topics will not succeed unless implemented with careful, ongoing attention to how and whether children are learning relevant skills.

(Although talk about burying the lede -- she writes all this about a program that has students spending 90 minutes a week in the garden or the kitchen! Excuse me, madam, but if you're worried about the ill effects of children spending 90 minutes a week on potentially useless activity, I have a near-endless list of schools for you to visit.)


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 01- 5-10 6:08 PM
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Bob, it's hard to answer her question on a formal level because I don't know where her problem lies. Is it the poor argumentation of the articles? A lack of familiarity with the references? A different way of approaching literature than people who are taught to talk about it professionally? Outside of talking about specific examples, I don't know how to get to Megan's specific difficulty.


Posted by: Blume | Link to this comment | 01- 5-10 6:09 PM
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Heh. I'm friends with the guy who runs the garden at the school she uses for her main example.


Posted by: Megan | Link to this comment | 01- 5-10 6:10 PM
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That's OK. I'll just know it was intended for other readers. I don't mind skipping stuff.

I am, of course, needling people in the humanities, who actually seem to believe they work with "arguments."


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 01- 5-10 6:10 PM
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Ooh, zing!


Posted by: Blume | Link to this comment | 01- 5-10 6:13 PM
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108: I found it perfectly possible to read A Separate Peace "straight" the only time I read it -- sometime between the ages of 9 and 12 -- because back then I (a) knew very little about Homosexuality; and (b) knew a great deal about what it was like to simultaneously adore and envy and kind of hate someone of the same sex for whom life seemed effortless.

Haven't read the Slate piece, and I'm pretty sure I read the book "straight" when I read it ca. age 13, but boy did (b) not apply to me back then. I and my male friends did not have the necessary insights into life to get anything out of half of what we read in class at that age. "Dude WTF is this crap?" summed up our reactions to ASP pretty well. Literature is wasted on the young.


Posted by: Otto von Bisquick | Link to this comment | 01- 5-10 6:14 PM
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Then again, I ended up a CS major.


Posted by: Otto von Bisquick | Link to this comment | 01- 5-10 6:15 PM
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I'm not sad that I never read A Separate Peace.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 01- 5-10 6:16 PM
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My specific difficulty is odd for a proficient reader. I can't keep track of all the questions a bad paragraph raises enough to agree or disagree on the thesis. (If I can find the thesis.) So, like, I can't follow the proof. There's too much weirdness curling off the sentences, and I can't hold all the possibilities enough to read what it says. (This doesn't happen to me much.) Especially after two or three paragraphs in a row. This is how I find out that I'm running an internal checker: "Did I get that enough to move on? Did I get that enough to predict the next thought?"

I think it is a combination of unduly fancy language, missing some east coast or literature allusions, and annoying contrarian cleverness. But I'd have to start making a chart to read that shit.


Posted by: Megan | Link to this comment | 01- 5-10 6:17 PM
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I love how the East Coast is like some almost mythical, completely incomprehensible place for you, Megan.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 01- 5-10 6:18 PM
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A different way of approaching literature than people who are taught to talk about it professionally?

I can't imagine that is the problem, because I'm sure I'm not contrasting those articles with the way a professional would analyze them.


Posted by: Megan | Link to this comment | 01- 5-10 6:19 PM
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Starting at the Rockies.


Posted by: Megan | Link to this comment | 01- 5-10 6:19 PM
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Maybe those poor English teachers got an idea or two into my head about how to read a book? Probably they did. But it sure must have seemed, to them, like an uphill battle. I'm certainly stunned at times to read of the depth of understanding of books that some here and on allied blogs claim to have had at a fairly young age.


Posted by: Otto von Bisquick | Link to this comment | 01- 5-10 6:24 PM
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It's just bad writing, Megan. It's not your fault. I find it moving when people put more thought into figuring out someone's thesis than the writer himself did, but unless you're commenting on drafts for students, there's not much point in it.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 01- 5-10 6:25 PM
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I agree completely with 130.


Posted by: Blume | Link to this comment | 01- 5-10 6:29 PM
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Sure, sure. I'm not actually worried. But there were two articles in a week, in two popular magazines. I assumed they were writing to somebody and I was trying to figure out who that could be.


Posted by: Megan | Link to this comment | 01- 5-10 6:36 PM
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One of the most important things I try to get across in my lit classes is that liking prose or poetry does not mean that its assumptions or values are just or good.

You have a hard row to hoe, then, considering the number of sins (racism, sexism, classism, colonialism, insufficient deference to "privilege," not disassembling master's house) that are routinely dismissed as "just bad writing" or, in genre reviews, "bad worldbuilding*."

* A word that makes me flinch and cringe almost concurrently.


Posted by: Flippanter | Link to this comment | 01- 5-10 6:39 PM
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I recently attended a talk that was so goddamn depressing, uninformative, and rambling that I couldn't make heads or tails of it, other than it was about how hard old-fashioned (i.e., internetless) scholarship is. I was the youngest person in attendance by about 35 years, though, and I've never heard praise like this at a talk. It was ground-breaking stuff, unbelievably relevant and moving.

I think if you write anything that suggests that Olden Tymes within the living memory of some of your audience were really actually the best, you'll get a lot of very intense praise. What I didn't say about Brit Hume's motives in recommending Christianity, that I meant to, was that, no, Brit Hume may not even be that stupid. He just likes getting fan letters from people who do not care if he is coherent; they just get a big erection every time someone says "Christianity" on TV.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 01- 5-10 6:43 PM
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As a corollary to Megan's complaint/question, I often worry that I am dismissing things too easily without bringing my full interpretive tool set to bear on them, simply because, having worked with editors and journalists, I know how lazy most of them are, and assume immediately that what I'm reading is simply bad writing, badly edited.
But I don't worry about that too much, because it is mostly dreck.


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 01- 5-10 6:44 PM
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I think it is a combination of unduly fancy language, missing some east coast or literature allusions, and annoying contrarian cleverness.

I don't know -- the language isn't unduly fancy, and while the piece is clearly trading on contrarian cleverness, so do a lot of other things. It strikes me that following (or not following) the poking and prodding -- the posturing -- that's going on is a function of how familiar you are with literary criticism and the history thereof.

I say this having read only the first page of the article, though; the segue to Metcalf's personal experiences at Exeter lost my interest. A speed-skim shows some talk of democracy and S.E. Hinton, and then Lionel Trilling for some reason. In other words, this thing is wandering all over the place.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 01- 5-10 6:46 PM
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122,

I and my male friends did not have the necessary insights into life to get anything out of half of what we read in class at that age.

Oh, I had that problem with anything that was overtly about sex. I didn't "get" The Scarlet Letter until the third read, in college. I still need to go back and re-read Vanity Fair because I read it in 5th grade. (I'd loved Jane Eyre and figured if Bronte liked Thackeray, I would too. I liked what I understood, but knowing nothing more about sex than what a Christian school counselor disclosed made for a weak grasp of Becky Sharp.)

I think it's pointless to read most of classic Western literature until at least a few years after puberty, because so much of it is basically about sex in some form. Before puberty sexual drives are incomprehensible; immediately after they're too frightening.


Posted by: PGofHSM | Link to this comment | 01- 5-10 6:52 PM
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He just likes getting fan letters from people who do not care if he is coherent; they just get a big erection every time someone says "Christianity" on TV.

RTFA.


Posted by: Not Prince Hamlet | Link to this comment | 01- 5-10 6:56 PM
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Oooo, ooooh! I just re-read Vanity Fair. It is SOOOO GOOOD. Straight up gossip from first to last page. That's what makes a book good, people. Gossip.


Posted by: Megan | Link to this comment | 01- 5-10 6:58 PM
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133:I didn't have any trouble, at any moment, understanding what Roiphe was trying to say, tho she did do a little dancing...for whatever reasons, to piss off feminists, to disarm quasi- or psuedo- feminists, to retain some defensible feminist cred.

"At their peak, those older sexist writers, even in their sexism, were more attractive and interesting and fun."

The article was not incomprehensible.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 01- 5-10 7:02 PM
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I'm reading The Ear, the Eye, and the Arm, and hoping RFTS or snark or togolosh has read it and will be around to discuss it whenever I manage to finish it.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 01- 5-10 7:02 PM
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I think it's pointless to read most of classic Western literature until at least a few years after puberty, because so much of it is basically about sex in some form.

Disagree about the sex thing. Lots of literature is about other adult themes, like success and failure, mortality, violence, etc. Those are harder to understand when young than sex is.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 01- 5-10 7:10 PM
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Lots of children's literature is about the same stuff, though.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 01- 5-10 7:11 PM
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Now did Roiphe "make her case?" Was her thesis clear, were her arguments sound, her evidences apt and adequate?

Well, I'm not sure the answers to those questions can be completely objective in some universal discourse. My guess is that different people would have different standards of proof, ideas of quality for such a thesis as 140.2.

As for myself, I seem to have lost my taste somewhere, my critical faculty, and read to communicate with the text rather than assess it, judge it, or dismiss it. This really isn't snark, I mean it, and am not sure I am capable of learning anymore.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 01- 5-10 7:14 PM
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I just read the second page of the Metcalf piece and I actually think it's quite good & that I had misread the first part.

I think he's a bit off that the voice of Nick Carroway, Gene, Augie March (if he has it) has been lost, but it's a bit insightful that these are all related voices (though probably not March) and that the voice was behind lots of good stuff we did before & are having difficulty extending. And Jersey Shore! You guys should read the second page.


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 01- 5-10 7:15 PM
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I'm reading The Ear, the Eye, and the Arm, and hoping RFTS or snark or togolosh has read it and will be around to discuss it whenever I manage to finish it.

I have read it! Sadly, nearly all I remember of it is that I didn't love it.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 01- 5-10 7:17 PM
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Jesus, the Roiphe article is irritating. When a critic turns in her final paragraphs to describing the male authors she's discussing as "boys," I can't help but show my fangs.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 01- 5-10 7:19 PM
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45 Not really pre-capitalist, but nineteenth century France didn't have a particularly female friendly property law system. Yet, something like half the novels we still read feature poor young men from the provinces seeking to make it big based on their good looks and sexual skills. Cf: Stendahl, Balzac, Maupassant, et. al. Informal power and wealth matters.


Posted by: teraz kurwa my | Link to this comment | 01- 5-10 7:24 PM
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All of which is to say: How is it possible that Philip Roth's sex scenes are still enraging us?

Liverfucking. Now those of us who are more interesting that Katie Roiphe can move on.


Posted by: snarkout | Link to this comment | 01- 5-10 7:24 PM
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Hey, I finally read that ASP article. The second page is pure dross, innit? And the paragraph beginning "And here we come across" will be a prominent exhibit when I finally draft my proposal for banishing the first-person plural from writing about artistic productions.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 01- 5-10 7:27 PM
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Oh, Christ. I deeply regret clicking through and reading more Katie Roiphe blather about how because women get to occasionally have sex and not get slutshamed all our great authors (who are of course men) are dead.


Posted by: snarkout | Link to this comment | 01- 5-10 7:27 PM
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145: Yeah, I actually decided to read it because the Trilling reference tickled at my brain.

There's a thesis there, though I have to say it's not a new one. Which is okay. The piece could have been better if made longer. As it stands, it feels the need for a journalistic hook at the beginning that's then sort of lost sight of for a while. Something longer could have allowed for a better, clearer structure. There's some interesting material there.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 01- 5-10 7:28 PM
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I'm going to second Bob here, that literary criticism is supposed to work at least in part empathetically and viscerally, like the stuff it's about, and not like a proof or even a legal brief (which also should try to appeal to the viscera at times). That's the basic joy in reading it. The Metcalf article is kind of beautiful, or even if you hate it, we can all agree that it should be beautiful and that criticism works when it has insights secondary or even irrelevant to its overall thesis.

This from someone who is not a lit teacher so feel free to poop on it.


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 01- 5-10 7:28 PM
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And I'll agree with parsimon's take as well. I am agree manifest.


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 01- 5-10 7:29 PM
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The literary possibilities of their own ambivalence are what beguile this new generation, rather than anything that takes place in the bedroom. In Michael Chabon's "Mysteries of Pittsburgh," a woman in a green leather miniskirt and no underwear reads aloud from "The Story of O," and the protagonist says primly, "I refuse to flog you."

Spoilers ahoy, but some readers might think that Mysteries of Pittsburgh is to a large extent about the narrator trying to avoid two essential truths -- that his father is a gangster and that he is gay -- and therefore wonder if the narrator's conflicted feelings about the rough sex with Manic Pixie Dream Girl are part of some larger motif. No gay people trying on heterosexual identity in Roipheworld, though!


Posted by: snarkout | Link to this comment | 01- 5-10 7:32 PM
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confidential to snarkout/rfts, are you familiar with the band Trapist?


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 01- 5-10 7:34 PM
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OT: Murphy's Law trip to Poland. Plan: Fly to Warsaw through Heathrow - Virgin Atlantic then Lot, arrive at around 2:30 PM, take train to Katowice (2hr 30 min), get picked up by cousin. Reality: Fly to Heathrow, arrive half an hour late, just miss connection, get told by Virgin Atlantic to get ticket for new flight from Lot, get told by Lot that it's not their problem. Several back and forths between the two involving the lovely forty five to sixty minute transit between terminals (why, oh why, do I need to go through a full security check when I never enter an area which you can enter without one). Get flight arriving at 10:00 PM in Warsaw, diddle around, find out my bank card has gotten frozen, arrive too late in Warsaw to catch any trains. Fun, fun, fun.

Return trip worked out ok, but on hour in a security line for transit folks, plus another forty five minutes check to get into the actual gate made it close. God I hate Heathrow.


Posted by: teraz kurwa my | Link to this comment | 01- 5-10 7:36 PM
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Quick googling says no, although I enjoy many of their labelmates and the Thrill Jockey description makes them sound a bit like Labradford.


Posted by: snarkout | Link to this comment | 01- 5-10 7:37 PM
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teraz! Back from the, uh, sort of homeland!


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 01- 5-10 7:37 PM
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Not a bit like Labradford.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 01- 5-10 7:38 PM
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143: that's a good point. Children's literature tends to deal with them as magical / symbolic fears or fantasies though.

I of course sort of liked the Roiphe piece. Not because it was well written, but just because I was glad to see someone defending the Roth / Bellow / Updike / Mailer cadre. Admittedly she did a shallow job of it. I thought the idea that they aren't necessarily more sexist than the later bunch had some truth to it too.

I would like to see some essayist compare the old-line male novelists to Marylin French's great misandrist epic, "The Women's Room". That book doesn't get enough attention. Neither do the great gay novels to come out of the 70s, which are classic novels about the meaning of sex but sidestep the battle between men and women.

When a critic turns in her final paragraphs to describing the male authors she's discussing as "boys,"

I do think there are a set of post-WWII male authors that one can profitably think of as perpetually adolescent, or as always drawing on adolescence for their emotional fuel.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 01- 5-10 7:38 PM
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Well, maybe a bit like Labradford. But more abrasive, and more discontinuous.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 01- 5-10 7:38 PM
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why, oh why, do I need to go through a full security check when I never enter an area which you can enter without one)

This is infuriating about Heathrow.


Posted by: Bave Dee | Link to this comment | 01- 5-10 7:39 PM
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video.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 01- 5-10 7:40 PM
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Things You Learn by Clicking Through to Fellow Commenters' Blogs, part 782:

The 1911 census for England and Wales was taken on the night of Sunday 2 April, 1911.
Frustrated with the government's refusal to grant women the vote, a large number of women boycotted the 1911 census by refusing to be counted.
There were two forms of protest. In the first, the women (or their husband) refused to fill in the form, often recording their protest to the enumerator. In the second, women evaded the census by staying away from their home for the whole night.
In both cases, any details relating to individual women in the households will be missing from the census.

The more things change....


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 01- 5-10 7:45 PM
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OT: Is there a way to scroll to the end of a long Unfogged coment thread on an Iphone without basically vigorously mastrubating the phone with my thumb? This has been driving me crazy.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 01- 5-10 7:45 PM
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Search for the string "Remember personal info?".


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 01- 5-10 7:46 PM
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167: There's a way to search for text within a web page on the iPhone? Where did they hide it?


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 01- 5-10 7:48 PM
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166: I use this method and think it works well enough. Two taps gets you to the bottom as long as you have the bookmarklet positioned on the first page of your bookmarks menu. It's become pretty second nature for me to jump to the bottom of a page that way.


Posted by: Otto von Bisquick | Link to this comment | 01- 5-10 7:48 PM
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This looks similar.


Posted by: Otto von Bisquick | Link to this comment | 01- 5-10 7:49 PM
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I do think there are a set of post-WWII male authors that one can profitably think of as perpetually adolescent, or as always drawing on adolescence for their emotional fuel.

Are they David Foster Wallace, Michael Chabon, Dave Eggers and Jonathan Franzen? But that's a sidebar.

The question would be whether there were pre-WWII (and by the way, I don't think WWII is the turning point you want there, as Roth, Updike, Mailer et al. were post-WWII themselves) ... whether there were writers of that era one could likewise profitably think of as drawing off adolescence for their emotional fuel.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 01- 5-10 7:50 PM
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168: beats me.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 01- 5-10 7:54 PM
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169 -- that looks great, but seems to require having a Mac at home. Is that right?


Posted by: Robert halford | Link to this comment | 01- 5-10 7:57 PM
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171 - Heller, for one. Amis. Probably everyone, look, adolescence is a lot of fun.


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 01- 5-10 7:58 PM
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168: There is not. It looks like some of the bookmarklets in 170 might help with that, though.


Posted by: Otto von Bisquick | Link to this comment | 01- 5-10 7:58 PM
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I knew when I read and liked that Roiphe piece that all of the better read world of Unfogged would hate it. It's so nice to have my suspicions confirmed. I of course have never heard of her before, found it amusing, and didn't think much deeper about it beyond the fact that it did seem to superficially discuss some of the things I dislike about the Eggers crew.


Posted by: Parenthetical | Link to this comment | 01- 5-10 7:58 PM
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171: I would definitely include Roth, Mailer, Bellow, among the perpetual adolescents -- especially Mailer, he's almost paradigmatic. Bellow and Roth get very shrewd about their effort to preserve adolescent energies as they age, Mailer just bulls on ahead. Updike is perhaps a more ambivalent case, or maybe I just don't understand him well enough.

I don't mean it as a pejorative, or as drawing a distinction between the 60s male writers and later ones. Didn't know Roiphe was using "boys" to single out the later writers.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 01- 5-10 7:59 PM
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Bellow a perpetual adolescent? Maybe in actual life, but in his fiction?


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 01- 5-10 8:00 PM
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I just installed the "scroll to end" bookmarklet from 170 (which is done entirely on the iphone) and it works great.


Posted by: Bave Dee | Link to this comment | 01- 5-10 8:01 PM
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I of course sort of liked the Roiphe piece. Not because it was well written, but just because I was glad to see someone defending the Roth / Bellow / Updike / Mailer cadre.

I'm not entirely sure what Roiphe's argument is meant to be, because I don't think that Wallace, Eggers, or Chabon really are comparable to any of those guys. They're not writing novels in the same tradition at all*. Those guys are all writing realist novels about the American middle classes during the Great Swingerfication of the '50s through the '80s. Chabon's most famous work is a piece of historical fiction putting forward the superhero comic as the essential American narrative; Wallace is a postmodernist comic novelist whom one might lump with George Saunders or Haruki Murakami; Eggers isn't even primarily a novelist, and Roiphe might have as lucidly compared him to Cyril Connolly. Maybe Roiphe's complaint is simply that the big-name (male) American novelists-except-Eggers she cited aren't terribly concerned with writing sex scenes in the way that the titans of post-war American literature were***, but arguing that these four guys aren't the same as those four guys is a poor way to go about it.

(Also, one of those things does not go with the others, and his name is Norman Mailer. Although I've only read Henderson the Rain King, so maybe Bellow was also a giant hack; Nabokov certainly thought so.**)

* My analysis here is ignoring Frazen, who I do think slots more neatly into this niche. But I thought The Corrections was tripe.
** Why isn't Nabokov writing great sex scenes that get Kate Roiphe all hot and bothered, huh? Ever since the Sexual Russian Revolution, Russo-Anglo-Germano-American novels have been awfully limp-dicked.
*** Which we will define, although defensibly, as "a few notable white guys who put sex scenes involving ladies in their books". I'll note that Cheever didn't make her list.


Posted by: snarkout | Link to this comment | 01- 5-10 8:02 PM
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NB I haven't actually read much of the fiction.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 01- 5-10 8:02 PM
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173: I can't answer this, as I've only ever synced with a Mac. I added it pretty much in the way they describe. Does Windows iTunes not offer you a way to sync bookmarks from any browsers?


Posted by: Otto von Bisquick | Link to this comment | 01- 5-10 8:03 PM
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Roiphe should read Springer's Progress.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 01- 5-10 8:04 PM
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so maybe Bellow was also a giant hack; Nabokov certainly thought so.

"Nabokov thought X was a giant hack" applies to all X except a set of measure zero, though.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 01- 5-10 8:05 PM
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Probably everyone, look, adolescence is a lot of fun.

The great (gay) novelist Edmund White, in an essay discussing the "adolescent" character of gay life in the 60s/70s, claims that whenever people have true freedom to organize their lives they live like adolescents, valuing beauty, gossip, sex, passion above all else. Not sure I agree, but that could very well be because in adulthood you lose sight of what complete freedom means -- weighted down by responsiblities and limitations.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 01- 5-10 8:06 PM
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184: What about when X is Nabokov?


Posted by: Otto von Bisquick | Link to this comment | 01- 5-10 8:07 PM
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I have a new macbook, and I jump to the bottom of the page all the time without meaning to, and I have no idea how I'm doing it.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 01- 5-10 8:08 PM
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Also, while I've only read a little Wallace, I've read a lot of Murakami, and the comparison is not one that strikes me as natural. Please, say more.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 01- 5-10 8:09 PM
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187: Three fingers moving downwards.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 01- 5-10 8:09 PM
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186: he probably had moments of self-doubt.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 01- 5-10 8:09 PM
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Three fingers moving downwards.

When I read this I became enlightened.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 01- 5-10 8:10 PM
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Further to 176, Snarkout's criticisms of the Roiphe piece make perfect sense to me but I fully missed them when I read it (but knew there was something perhaps a little off). This is why Unfogged is both great and demoralizing. I wanna be smart!


Posted by: Parenthetical | Link to this comment | 01- 5-10 8:11 PM
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Ever since the Sexual Russian Revolution, Russo-Anglo-Germano-American novels have been awfully limp-dicked.

I think one could mount an argument that Ada is not awfully limp-dicked.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 01- 5-10 8:12 PM
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John Barth wrote a whole story about sperm.

What modern writer has comparable lusty vigor?


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 01- 5-10 8:13 PM
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Lolita isn't terribly limp-dicked either, for that matter.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 01- 5-10 8:14 PM
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The prose styles aren't the same, but anti-realist and genre-influenced. A continuum with Saunders, Eggers, the DeLillo of White Noise on one side; Murakami and early Jonathan Lethem on the other.

* waves hands *


Posted by: snarkout | Link to this comment | 01- 5-10 8:14 PM
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The sole google hit for "spermy relish" is kind of disappointing.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 01- 5-10 8:15 PM
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What modern writer has comparable lusty vigor?

Would that J.G. Ballard were alive in this hour.


Posted by: snarkout | Link to this comment | 01- 5-10 8:16 PM
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I take that back. It's absurdly bizarre. "I collapsed onto beth, my general attic on the personally of her neck, and flattered her breasts, boney that i would tinge my midst as a windshield of the paternal hat of my climax."


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 01- 5-10 8:16 PM
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Also, one of those things does not go with the others, and his name is Norman Mailer.

Right, Mailer is a horrible novelist, but he's a fantastic essayist and provocateur. (His novels read better if you try to pull chunks of essays out of them). The subject matter of his essays does of align with the subject matter Roiphe is trying to write about, and she's really too crude a writer to treat these guys as novelists anyway.

Bellow a perpetual adolescent? Maybe in actual life, but in his fiction?

I said drawing on adolescent energies, they obviously have adult sophistication and skills.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 01- 5-10 8:16 PM
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Lolita isn't terribly limp-dicked either, for that matter.

Indeed not, and yet not exactly an Updike-style fuck in the park.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 01- 5-10 8:17 PM
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"Night-Sea Journey" is only two years older than that, snarkout.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 01- 5-10 8:18 PM
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170 worked, and works great! Thanks. I knew someone here would know what to do.


Posted by: Robert halford | Link to this comment | 01- 5-10 8:18 PM
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Bellow sure drew on adolescent energies when fathering his youngest child at the age of eighty-something.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 01- 5-10 8:19 PM
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170 is not working at all on my (first-generation) iPhone. When I click the bookmark, I just get taken back to the page where I downloaded it.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 01- 5-10 8:20 PM
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I knew when I read and liked that Roiphe piece that all of the better read world of Unfogged would hate it.

Well, I hadn't said yet, just that I understood it, but I did find the Roiphe piece amusing as contrarian snark. Badly written? The last paragraph looks designed to confound and enrage, and I laughed out loud. But I don't think I liked the piece.

Those four authors are far from my favorites. Read 4 by Mailer and 4 by Bellow. 2 each of the Roth and Updike, who I strongly disliked.

I think a definition of "immature" "or irresponsible", which is usually what we mean by "perpetual adolescent" that includes Mailer and Bellow is probably too broad. They may have been unruly in their personal lives which is reflected in their books.

171:She mentioned some writer named Kunkel, who apparently in some fit of feminist empathy or sumpin, wanted to throw away his penis.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 01- 5-10 8:20 PM
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187: Three fingers moving downwards.

Thanks! That is great to know.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 01- 5-10 8:22 PM
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"Updike-style fuck in the park" is entering my phrasamentarium.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 01- 5-10 8:22 PM
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191: I immediately thought that as well, sadly, it turned out later that I was mistaken.


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 01- 5-10 8:22 PM
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205: you need to follow the further instruction to delete all the stuff in the bookmarklet url before the first javascript word.


Posted by: Bave Dee | Link to this comment | 01- 5-10 8:23 PM
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Natilo, don't you know you have to convert to Christianity to achieve true enlightenment?


Posted by: Bave Dee | Link to this comment | 01- 5-10 8:24 PM
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208: Doubtless the park in questions was Itchykoo.


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 01- 5-10 8:24 PM
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Hmm, two comments in a row telling people what to do. I'm going to bed.


Posted by: Bave Dee | Link to this comment | 01- 5-10 8:25 PM
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210: I did; the bookmark points to http://ipuhelin.com/en/safariplus/__e__#


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 01- 5-10 8:25 PM
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I really hated Ada, which I tried to read recently. Once it became clear that the self indulgence just wouldn't quit -- enough with the alliteration, dammit -- I just gave up. Maybe the last 100 pages are awesome.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 01- 5-10 8:25 PM
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More than a couple times, I've said about a movie, "One thing I really liked is that there were no sex scenes." (most recently "Up In The Air")

The same basically applies to novels, except I only read detective novels.


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 01- 5-10 8:25 PM
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Once it became clear that the self indulgence just wouldn't quit

Yeah, you're not going to like Nabokov.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 01- 5-10 8:26 PM
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I'm not entirely sure what Roiphe's argument is meant to be, because I don't think that Wallace, Eggers, or Chabon really are comparable to any of those guys. They're not writing novels in the same tradition at all Those guys are all writing realist novels about the American middle classes during the Great Swingerfication of the '50s through the '80s. Chabon's most famous work is a piece of historical fiction putting forward the superhero comic as the essential American narrative; Wallace is a postmodernist comic novelist

I don't think that matters for her point, they fill a similar cultural niche. The American Celebrity Male Novelist has a role to play in the construction of our masculinity, or the intellectual version of it. From her 30,000 foot elevation, the artistic choices made are simply tactics. (Also, Roth, Updike, Mailer are not simply realist novelists -- even Bellow is very sly about his realism, how realist is "Herzog"? "Henderson the Rain King"?).

Of course, novelists of any sort are no longer really celebrities, which might have more to do with her argument than she cares to admit.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 01- 5-10 8:27 PM
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203: The non-code 'trick" I use (and which someone suggested here) is to click on the "comments" part of "Xyzzy comments on Heebie's latest brilliant post" in the LATEST COMMENTS section of the homepage.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 01- 5-10 8:28 PM
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214: No, you take that part out and leave the rest ("javascript:scroll" etc.).


Posted by: Bave Dee | Link to this comment | 01- 5-10 8:28 PM
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220: Oh, wow, I'm a moron.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 01- 5-10 8:29 PM
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211: When I die, you bury me, with a jug of molasses at my feet. Put a piece of light-bread in my hand, I'll sop my way to the Promised Land.


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 01- 5-10 8:31 PM
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Roiphe's piece is a piece of propaganda, like an ear worm: Psst, listen: feminism emasculated (male) novelists. They can't even write about sex as though it's invigorating and fun! These wimpy contemporary writers are emo boys by comparison, isn't it obvious?

Well, whatever; it's not an argument.

---

OK. I had to get that off my chest. Thanks.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 01- 5-10 8:31 PM
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Fucking iPhone. I can't manage to get the cursor in a spot where I can delete the beginning, rather than the end, of the URL.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 01- 5-10 8:33 PM
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I did like Lolita, though, and Speak, Memory. Ada was a step beyond, like being trapped in a room with an extremely annoying person.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 01- 5-10 8:35 PM
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I think a definition of "immature" "or irresponsible", which is usually what we mean by "perpetual adolescent" that includes Mailer and Bellow is probably too broad.

Yeah, that's the simple pejorative, I don't buy that. I think of adolescence as about the attempt to impose oneself on the world, a boredom with limitation, adulthood as about the realization that life is more about the world imposing itself on you, an acceptance and exploration of limitation. But as usual I'm lapsing into a private symbolism.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 01- 5-10 8:35 PM
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224: This stymied me as well. Select some or part of the string, then move the beginning and end markers of the selection to where you need them to be to delete the part you want to delete.


Posted by: Bave Dee | Link to this comment | 01- 5-10 8:35 PM
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Finally, after typing in the javascript by hand.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 01- 5-10 8:36 PM
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I struggled with the problem in 224 for a while. You can us e the select function, and then cut out the offending part of the URL.


Posted by: Robert halford | Link to this comment | 01- 5-10 8:37 PM
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Ada was my favorite novel ever of all time when I was 19, and isn't far from it now. Yes, he's a striking omission from Roiphe's article, but she seems only interested in people who write about surprisingly repellent-sounding sex, not surprisingly compelling-sounding sex.

Also, her shit about the recent generation of male novelists is totally ignoring a lot, in that a lot fewer of the major novelists are white straight men, and that they're not writing at the cusp of a sexual revolution.

One thing I will vaguely, in a different way, agree with her about is that, sure, a lot of the things that make us safer, more aware, more sexually educated, etc., also make kinky sex seem either dorky and academic or unpleasantly dangerous. But I'd argue that it's not sexual equality or feminism that makes sex feel guilty and unappealing.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 01- 5-10 8:37 PM
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227: Ah, that sounds like a good trick to learn. In general, editing text on the iPhone seems a bit trickier since they added the copy/paste features, since I sometimes select things when I don't want to.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 01- 5-10 8:37 PM
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In Henderson, I can see the adolescent energies. In most of the stories I remember from Selected Stories, not much at all. Nor in Ravelstein.


Posted by: Bave Dee | Link to this comment | 01- 5-10 8:38 PM
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Am I right to suspect that adolescent energies swirl?


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 01- 5-10 8:38 PM
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Does she criticize modern Maileresque men for not being novelists, or does she just criticize modern male novelists for not being Maileresque?


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 01- 5-10 8:39 PM
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There aren't a lot of adolescent energies in Springer's Progress, but there sure is a lot of fucking. Also, compelling prose.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 01- 5-10 8:39 PM
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I don't think that matters for her point, they fill a similar cultural niche.

Do they, though? I'm really unconvinced. Barth strikes me as a much more appropriate comparison to Wallace, but adding Barth or omitting Wallace (who, claim bigger Wallace fans than I, she is badly misreading) would mess up her point, which is basically "why aren't Will Self and Martin Amis American?"

"Henderson the Rain King"

Point taken, although she was writing more about Augie March, which I haven't read and can't comment on.


Posted by: snarkout | Link to this comment | 01- 5-10 8:39 PM
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I think they surge.

I need to read more Bellow. I love what I've read of his, Nabokov be damned.


Posted by: Bave Dee | Link to this comment | 01- 5-10 8:40 PM
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Oh, of course. Surging.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 01- 5-10 8:42 PM
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Nabokov be damned

?
!


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 01- 5-10 8:43 PM
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Nor in Ravelstein.

That was a terrific book. One of the only ones where Bellow stepped to the side and let someone besides a Bellow-proxy take center stage. Of course, he was in his 80s when he wrote it. But Alan Bloom must have been a fascinating character to inspire even the decripit old Bellow to do that.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 01- 5-10 8:43 PM
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You guys do know that if you tap and hold on text for long enough, the little magnifying glass shows up, and then you can (while still holding) slide your finger around until the cursor gets to the right spot? 'Cause I didn't find deleting the rest of the URL to be all that hard. (God I'm self-satisfied today.)


Posted by: Otto von Bisquick | Link to this comment | 01- 5-10 8:43 PM
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You can also damn him for The Original of Laura. Wait, no. Dmitri Nabokov be damned for publishing that.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 01- 5-10 8:44 PM
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239: 180.


Posted by: Bave Dee | Link to this comment | 01- 5-10 8:44 PM
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Not a lot of sex in Vonnegut, who could also be caled, in a different way, perpetually adolescent.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 01- 5-10 8:44 PM
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Yes, he's a striking omission from Roiphe's article, but she seems only interested in people who write about surprisingly repellent-sounding sex, not surprisingly compelling-sounding sex.

Ha! Well put.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 01- 5-10 8:46 PM
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I think a good test for tolerance for Nabokov is to go to Brian Boyd's "Ada Online" website and browse though some of the annotated chapters. If your reaction is "hey, that's kind of interesting" proceed, if you find yourself wanting to kill Nabakov* (and maybe Boyd) stay away. I just finished Boyd's book on Pale Fire (my choice for his best book) 37 years after first reading the novel, and although Boyd's reading itself annoyed me, I was entertained by his explication of all the allusions and references that I had missed and look forward to re-reading it soon.

*Would have been my reaction from about ages 30 to 50, but I'm liking him again in my dotage.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 01- 5-10 8:46 PM
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246: No, that's a Boyd-toleration test. Plenty of people who love Nabokov think Boyd is out of his gourd.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 01- 5-10 8:49 PM
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although Boyd's reading itself annoyed me

Yeah, I feel like he's trying to rewrite Nabokov's book, or reshape our reading to view it as his work as much as Nabokov's, or something. But I also like his book. I keep intending to read the one about Ada, and not getting around to it.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 01- 5-10 8:50 PM
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Barth strikes me as a much more appropriate comparison to Wallace,

Different generation from the FOUR, I think. Barth, Coover, Pynchon, Stone, Barthelme. The FOUR were all WWII vets, greatest generation types

She doesn't mention Vidal or Capote, who were up there or above those guys in celebrity at the time. I don't know if they have worn as well in literary reputation.

Hawkes. Cheever. The Beats, of course. I am trying to remember other Greatgen authors.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 01- 5-10 8:52 PM
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244:Damn


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 01- 5-10 8:53 PM
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Does Nabakov have any other books that are as comprehensible as Lolita (which I love)? Also I loved Despair. And then I tried three or so that were utterly beyond me, including Ada and Invitation to a Beheading.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 01- 5-10 8:59 PM
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Ahahahaha. While the site might be shallow and full of shallow people I get a kick out of dumping users that had a bit too much "stuffing" recently.


Posted by: Grokodile | Link to this comment | 01- 5-10 9:00 PM
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It's not much like his other books, but I adore Pnin, and it's very accessible.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 01- 5-10 9:01 PM
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Pale Fire is hard, but I just taught it to a class of first-semester freshmen who all loved it.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 01- 5-10 9:01 PM
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I liked The Defense.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 01- 5-10 9:02 PM
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I loved the Nabokov short story "Cloud, Castle, Lake" along with Invitation to a Beheading. n=1.


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 01- 5-10 9:06 PM
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Has anyone seen the Fassbinder/Stoppard Despair? Ben? McManus?


Posted by: snarkout | Link to this comment | 01- 5-10 9:06 PM
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Also I loved Despair.

You might like all the early ones, then; they're all less "gimmicky" and self-referential than the late ones. Laughter in the Dark, maybe, or King, Queen, Knave? Also The Defense.

Pnin is, I think, pretty unambiguously the most accessible of his English-language novels, as rfts said.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 01- 5-10 9:08 PM
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I don't even remember Glory.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 01- 5-10 9:11 PM
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I have not seen the Fassbinder/Stoppard Despair.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 01- 5-10 9:11 PM
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Also, the first chapter of Ada is wickedly difficult, but if you just get through it, read for what you can, the rest of the book is very rewarding, I think.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 01- 5-10 9:12 PM
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I'd still recommend Pale Fire because it is a hoot even without following all of the literary and butterfly allusions. Kinbote is a truly original nutcase.

There is a very loud amusement park right in front of my present lodgings.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 01- 5-10 9:16 PM
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I kinda thought getting into Nabokov was only a few millimeters away from getting into Camus, and from there you're a hop, skip, and a jump from listening to The Cure whilst I show you my etchings.


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 01- 5-10 9:17 PM
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I laughed out loud at 262.2. This is why heebie should read Pale Fire.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 01- 5-10 9:18 PM
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I thought I was just about the only person who loved Ada. Pretty much everyone I know hated the book.


Posted by: teraz kurwa my | Link to this comment | 01- 5-10 9:18 PM
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I kinda thought getting into Nabokov was only a few millimeters away from getting into Camus

Wuh?

I was into Camus for a brief period circa senior year of high school / first year of college. He's not nearly as much fun.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 01- 5-10 9:19 PM
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Yeah, my students kept saying, at opportune moments throughout the semester, "Is that a crime?"


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 01- 5-10 9:19 PM
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I thought I was just about the only person who loved Ada.

Well, we wouldn't want to admit to loving her. Van might challenge us to a duel or something.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 01- 5-10 9:20 PM
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266: I guess I know snobbier snobs than you. I still like both of 'em.


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 01- 5-10 9:20 PM
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Camus, and from there you're a hop, skip, and a jump from listening to The Cure whilst I show you my etchings. smoking clove cigarettes and drinking vermouth.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 01- 5-10 9:23 PM
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Yes, Pnin is great, and very funny. Speak Memory is also easy to read.

Since I became an Ada-hater, though, I've been wondering about the relationship between Nabokov's work and his carefully cultivated self presentation He really was a kind of a last living link to the world of European aristocracy, but he was also damn sure going to let you know that. Part of what annoyed me about Ada was that it seemed to be written by a kind of self-constrained version of his self image, or someone trying a bit too hard to be a bit too cool, if that makes any sense.

And there's nothing educated Americans like more than getting negliments from European aristocrats.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 01- 5-10 9:23 PM
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In general though, explicit sex scenes don't make for good writing. The reality of sex is just too silly/sappy/cliched without the arousal and fun which comes with the reality. Writing around it seems to work better - the lust, happiness, contentment, despair, jealousy etc that are associated with it.


Posted by: teraz kurwa my | Link to this comment | 01- 5-10 9:24 PM
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And there's nothing educated Americans like more than getting negliments from European aristocrats.

Uh, I don't think that's what I liked about it.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 01- 5-10 9:25 PM
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My own personal bit of literary snobbery is to say, if you haven't read Cortázar's Rayuela in Spanish, you haven't read (which is obvious snobbery). That shit drove me almost crazy.


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 01- 5-10 9:27 PM
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I'll repeat my Ada synopsis that I am inordinately proud of:

I You We fucked my cousin half-sister sister, prepare to die!


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 01- 5-10 9:27 PM
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I've never heard the word negliments before, but it seems self-explanatory.

It's like ligaments for your neck?


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 01- 5-10 9:28 PM
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Also, I'm pretty sure, IIRC, that Ada was not liked by most American academics and book reviewers. My own profs disliked it as well. I guess I didn't think the book was about me. Maybe it was intended to be, but, well, I never even met the guy.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 01- 5-10 9:28 PM
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Not saying it was, of course, just that N's reputation is pretty inseparable from that consciously aristocratic self-presentation. But I don't have any claim to expertise.


Posted by: Robert halford | Link to this comment | 01- 5-10 9:29 PM
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272: I think most treatment of sex in literature is potentially very damaging to young people. Fucking authors telling lies about fucking. And the Post-WWII Big Swinging Dicks are among the worst offenders.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 01- 5-10 9:29 PM
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279: The playground is a far better source.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 01- 5-10 9:30 PM
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247:No.

Read and liked and don't remember Pale Fire in my High-Mod manic. Am way tired of Nabby worship.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 01- 5-10 9:32 PM
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278: The way I see it, Nabokov was a total asshole. He hated his brother for being gay. He was an absolute douchebag to readers, reviewers, interviewers, academics, film people, everyone. I have never read anything that makes me think I would have tolerated his company, or he mine. But I feel the same way about Donne, too. Doesn't stop me from thinking those poems are fucking brilliant.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 01- 5-10 9:32 PM
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... whenever people have true freedom to organize their lives they live like adolescents, valuing beauty, gossip, sex, passion above all else....

If I were an impresario of letters, I would assign one of my captive timid, Brooklynite half-men writers to compose an essay (for the NYTBR? the TLS? I'd not settle for N+1) allying this proposition to the sociological thesis that nomads, among societies, are the happiest.

Then I'd red-pencil the draft with comments like "You suck, Poindexter" and "Have you ever even seen a tree?" That step is probably optional, but what the hell.


Posted by: Flippanter | Link to this comment | 01- 5-10 9:34 PM
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271 Nabokov was very much a self-conscious member of his class and sub-class as it existed in the early decades of the twentieth century, but that class was certainly not the aristocracy. Other than his genius he was a pretty typical member of the European haute bourgeoisie, sub-species culture snob. There were some scions of the aristocracy in that set, but they were seen, and saw themselves, as rebels against their own class. Think Lukacs or Wittgenstein, not the Esterhazys, Schwarzenbergs, or Czartoryskis.


Posted by: teraz kurwa my | Link to this comment | 01- 5-10 9:35 PM
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272:Well, that's the challenge then, isn't it?


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 01- 5-10 9:36 PM
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One of the things that I like about Pnin is that it is the only place I know of where you can see Nabokov being even the least bit humble or abashed about his snobbery and his success.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 01- 5-10 9:43 PM
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281 last wasn't really directed to here now, but to years on the lliterate internets.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 01- 5-10 9:48 PM
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286: You don't think Kinbote is, at least in places, a way for Nabokov to mock himself?


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 01- 5-10 9:51 PM
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282 -- yeah, I guess I felt the assholishness seeping through into the text in a way you didn't, to the point where I was put off the entire project of reading the thing. But maybe that's just my loss.

Usually I have a high tolerance for writers who were awful people in the real world; I like Pound and Celine, who are obviously way worse than N.

I love Donne, too, and was happily unaware of the details of his life.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 01- 5-10 9:53 PM
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I lost my Nabokov virginity to Pale Fire. It made secret shameful parts of my brain touch each other in forbidden places.


Posted by: Standpipe Bridgeplate | Link to this comment | 01- 5-10 10:01 PM
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Ye-es, but not in a way that seems particularly abashed, at least. There's a touch of humility in it, but there's a difference between the sentiment "Christ, I'm kind of a lucky asshole" (Pnin) and "Christ, I'm a magnificent asshole!" (Pale Fire). And Pnin even has a dose of "possibly some of the people I trample on are, objectively speaking, better people than I am."


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 01- 5-10 10:01 PM
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I see.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 01- 5-10 10:06 PM
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284 -- I thought he was at least minor nobility; in any event, his father was a minister in the Czarist state. I think of him as belonging roughly to the same liberal aristocratic tradition as Turgenev or Tocqueville.

In any event, there was much made of the lost pleasure of the landed estate in Speak Memory, and the presentation was certainly directed to his notion as a guardian of a lost culture that was not just that of the haute bourgeoisie, or perhaps reflected the haute bourgeoisie's concept of aristocratic life, or perhaps those distinctions tend to merge in the mind of this American.


Posted by: robert halford | Link to this comment | 01- 5-10 10:06 PM
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I do like Pale Fire and enjoy reading works of and about magnificent assholes.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 01- 5-10 10:07 PM
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Most of N's best characters have something of himself in him, mixed with something he was absolutely not. If I'm reading Halford right, the problem with Ada may be that Van is the closest N gets to having a character be himself. I think that representation gets dismantled and degraded as the book goes on. Van and Ada are both wildly arrogant, fantastically brilliant children, but they're also selfish, narrow-minded, obsessed, and responsible for the terrible fates of others. We get to see them grow up and face those failures of character, and sort of gradually trade in all the promise of their youth.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 01- 5-10 10:10 PM
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293 - His father was a liberal newspaper publisher and a member of the Duma under Kerensky; I believe it was his grandfather who was a minister under the czar.


Posted by: snarkout | Link to this comment | 01- 5-10 10:15 PM
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Wikipedia says that Snarkout is right and also, unhelpfully, that Nabokov was a member of the "untitled nobility of St. Petersburg," whatever that means.

Based on 295, I probably should have finished the book.


Posted by: robert halford | Link to this comment | 01- 5-10 10:20 PM
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I might be wrong, but my impression was that his paternal grandfather was from a minor gentry family and rose up through the civil service to the top and that his father married the heiress of a very wealthy Old Believer merchant family. His father was also a leader of the Kadets, a primarily upper middle class liberal party, though it did attract some of the most left wing nobility. Russia didn't have much of an established non minority bourgeois tradition, so I see this as more haut bourgeois than anything else.


Posted by: teraz kurwa my | Link to this comment | 01- 5-10 10:37 PM
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"untitled nobility of St. Petersburg,"

Presumably referring to the Civil Service nobility, as opposed to the traditional landed nobility. Though Wikipedia says that his grandfather married into the ethnic German landed nobility of the Baltics. In Tsarist Russia you got automatic hereditary noble status if you reached the highest levels of the Civil Service.


Posted by: teraz kurwa my | Link to this comment | 01- 5-10 10:40 PM
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Megan: Have you read A Separate Peace and you remember it? If you haven't or don't, then the piece is completely incomprehensible. If you have and do, then the only explanation left is "tumor".

Roiphe is just hiding from the obvious conclusion: the writers she liked destroyed the novel. They were hailed as the literary writers that you simply had to read, and people discovered they would rather be doing something else.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 01- 6-10 2:18 AM
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297-299: The Wiki Article on his father has it as, Nabokov ["our" Nabakov's father] was born in Tsarskoe Selo, into a wealthy and aristocratic family. His father Dmitry Nabokov (1827-1904) was a Justice Minister in the reign of Alexander II from 1878 to 1885, and his mother Maria von Korff (1842-1926) was a Baroness from a prominent Baltic German family in Courland.

*PALE FIRE SPOILER ALERT*
I did not appreciate until reading Boyd's book the extent to which the misdirected assassination echoed elements of his father's death, V. D. Nabokov attended a CD political conference in Berlin on 28 March 1922, when a Russian monarchist approached the stage singing the Tsarist National anthem and opened fire at the politician and publisher Pavel Miliukov. In response Nabokov jumped off the stage and wrestled the gunman down to the floor. Another assassin came out and shot him twice; he died instantly. One of the assassins was Piotr Shabelsky-Bork, prominent conspiracy theorist and promoter of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 01- 6-10 6:35 AM
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I haven't read the last half of the thread yet, but Megan, if you're trying to extract meaning from every paragraph of the Slate article, don't worry, you're making it harder for yourself than it has to be. The whole thing looks to me like self-important bloviation expounding on the first paragraph: "Once required reading-it has sold north of 8 million copies-A Separate Peace is now little more than a harmless keepsake from that part of 1959 that stayed 1959, a time when one could still be adolescent, white, privileged, and gay and not know it."

To phrase it more clearly: "A Separate Peace was one of those essential modern classics for a while, but now it's just a relic of the 1950s lower-upper class, and don't we have enough of those already?" The rest of the article is just literary masturbation of the kind required by a Slate article, and exhaustive demonstration that the author of the article went to Exeter himself. No, I'm not sure what Slate's market is either. Best guess off the top of my head: high-flying MBAs who feel guilty for ignoring their creative side but not guilty enough to do anything about it but read Slate, and/or who have a kinky desire for the kind of awkward humiliation more common in high school than in business.

However, it took me a while to notice that was the point of the article myself, because I was blindsided by something the article takes for granted. See, a little background: my parents thought one of the English teachers at my high school was very bad, so while I was in ninth grade they arranged for a private tutor, an English teacher who worked at the school where my mother was a guidance counselor. A Separate Peace was among the books I read, and I honestly don't remember anything about homosexuality in there. Looking back on what I remember of it, sure, it's really obvious. But I didn't notice that on my own and the tutor never told me. (I often that I don't remember much of my childhood, so maybe I did know this and have just forgotten it, but it doesn't seem that way.) Missing such an important, obvious part of the book casts doubt on the value of having been tutored. Was Ethan Frome half-black or something?


Posted by: Cyrus | Link to this comment | 01- 6-10 7:32 AM
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141: Sorry, haven't read it and am unlikely to ever read it. I have an aversion to reading things that resonate too strongly with my childhood.

Also, my high school had a garden, and first form students were required to work on it. Students also did all the cleaning of classrooms, washing dishes, even some light construction work. It's good fun, teaches useful skills, provides exercise, and breaks up the monotony of sitting in a classroom.


Posted by: togolosh | Link to this comment | 01- 6-10 7:40 AM
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and breaks up the monotony of sitting in a classroom.

Back in my day, we didn't use garden for that. We had inappropriate thoughts about the girl in front of us.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01- 6-10 7:48 AM
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304: I think you mean one row over and two seats behind.

--Pencil-dropping guy


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 01- 6-10 7:50 AM
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||

Okay, what's the best way to search the archives? Somebody said that they used bing (KR, I think) successfully.

There was a guy from my church that I went out on a coffee date with whose e-mail I posted. At the time, I thought he was just sappy, but gswift warned that he did not see good times ahead with the guy. He was right in more ways than he knew.

He looked up my sister on Facebook and asked if she was the one from X church, and they went out. She knew that he knew me, but not that we'd been on a date.

It turns out that he's a crazy, controlling guy who is fairly openly racist and who told my sister not to have anyone over to his apartment condo where she was staying for a bit. I went over to get her stuff with BF, and he told the BF to get out of his apartment which he owns and go in the hallway, although I was welcome, because I was like family"

He also has a terrible temper. Just in general a little crazy. And while I was concerned about my sister's safety she's still worried that he needs help, which he does, but I made sure that she understood that it wasn't her problem.

|>

He looked


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 01- 6-10 8:16 AM
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Sorry, neb, for not including the appropriate question mark there.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 01- 6-10 8:19 AM
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279
I think most treatment of sex in literature is potentially very damaging to young people.

Especially Piers Anthony.


Posted by: Cyrus | Link to this comment | 01- 6-10 8:19 AM
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306: My sympathies for your sister, but I'm not certain what advice to give or why this makes you want to search the archives.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01- 6-10 8:24 AM
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Piers Anthony inspired the TV show Dead Like Me.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 01- 6-10 8:30 AM
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306: I go to Google, type in "site:unfogged.com", and then search for whatever I'm looking for. Also, good luck to your sister.


Posted by: Cyrus | Link to this comment | 01- 6-10 8:33 AM
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Moby: I wanted to find the comments about this guy so that everyone could be reminded what a douchebag he was.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 01- 6-10 8:35 AM
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||

For those curious I am on the the live screen-cast of how I write code in this interview process. I hate it because I worry about what standards they will be evaluating me on that I don't know.

Updates in 2 hours if this go well, sooner if not...

|>


Posted by: ukko | Link to this comment | 01- 6-10 8:35 AM
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311: I've used Google that way and failed to find conversations in which I remember taking part. It's probably that my memory is bad.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01- 6-10 8:37 AM
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It's probably that my memory is bad.

Or so the search algorithms would have you believe.


Posted by: Bave Dee | Link to this comment | 01- 6-10 8:40 AM
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314: No, it's because of the hoohole. Bing sometimes finds things that are lost in the hoohole, but I've had some failures with it also.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 01- 6-10 8:40 AM
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315, 316: That's good to hear. I remember talking about 'hay', but I could not find it later when somebody (Megan?) mentioned it without putting in a link.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01- 6-10 8:45 AM
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Walt: Yeah, sure. 9th grade, like everyone. I understood the plot synopsis parts. Guess that leaves a tumor, although I'd kinda rather not have one.


Posted by: Megan | Link to this comment | 01- 6-10 8:46 AM
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Now I feel bad about making the joke. I'd been assuming you hadn't read the book. I don't see where the essay is making references to knowledge outside the book, other than the parts that make clear that Metcalf! Went! To! Exeter! I don't know anything about Exeter, and assume that all prep schools resemble Dead Poet Society. Though I'm from the East Coast, so maybe an intuitive understanding of aristocratic privilege is part of my birthright.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 01- 6-10 8:54 AM
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It has got to be that last.


Posted by: Megan | Link to this comment | 01- 6-10 8:58 AM
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I'd never heard of Beautiful People before. It sounds fascinating.
Let's assume that p(single)=f(looks, personality). If you've got a list of people who are all single despite [looks] being well above average by conventional standards, the conclusion is that [personality] is well below normal. In fact, it's a list of people who a) are above average in looks; b) are so aware of this that they sign up for the site; c) are, despite a), single, and have been so for long enough to have signed up for a dating site.

It's a list of hot, arrogant, unpleasant people. I'm sure there must be some way to exploit this.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 01- 6-10 9:11 AM
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Until I read the Metcalf piece, I remembered A Separate Peace being set in England, since its boarding school setting was so foreign to me.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 01- 6-10 9:12 AM
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I think 321 hits the nail on the head. We need to invite them all onto a big spaceship and then crash it into the sun.


Posted by: togolosh | Link to this comment | 01- 6-10 9:34 AM
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I'm reading The Ear, the Eye, and the Arm, and hoping RFTS or snark or togolosh has read it and will be around to discuss it whenever I manage to finish it.
I've read it and would be up for discussing it, though I read it a while ago.

Camus, and from there you're a hop, skip, and a jump from listening to The Cure whilst I show you my etchings. smoking clove cigarettes and drinking vermouth.
And maybe even taking a pill and sleeping at will.


Posted by: the Other Paul | Link to this comment | 01- 6-10 9:36 AM
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Metcalf had a phenomenal essay on The Replacements's Let It Be a couple of weeks ago. It inspired me to download the album and take it with me on my road trip.

After we read A Separate Peace in 9th grade, my friend and I would jounce the floor to make one another fall over. In slow-mo, as in the movie.


Posted by: k-sky | Link to this comment | 01- 6-10 10:07 AM
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As I recall, I had no interest in the main characters of A Separate Peace, but I wrote a really bad and intense paper about Leper.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 01- 6-10 10:10 AM
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I searched for video of ASP, trying to find clips from the movie, but all I found were like hundreds of high-school boys re-enacting their favorite scenes.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 01- 6-10 10:12 AM
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like hundreds of high-school boys re-enacting their favorite scenes.

Re-enacting them straight?


Posted by: Bave Dee | Link to this comment | 01- 6-10 10:15 AM
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321 is awesome.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 01- 6-10 10:16 AM
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Nabokov is such a crazy good stylist, pyrotechnics everywhere, but those can get boring. I will forever be grateful for "Ada" though, as it was one of my literary introductions to sex. The sex scenes in that book had a big impact, especially when combined with the richly detailed atmosphere of aristocratic decadance.

Another childhood book with fantastic sex scenes -- "The Beastly Beatitudes of Balthazar B". JP Donleavy.

The combination of literary richness and erotic detail can have a big impact on a 12 year old. I think those books helped create my generally melancholy, wistful, and nostalgic temperment -- I have a very un-American character.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 01- 6-10 10:22 AM
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generally melancholy, wistful, and nostalgic temperment -- I have a very un-American character.

Aw, buck up, cowboy. This sounds just like Glenn Beck!


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 01- 6-10 10:24 AM
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I'm sure there must be some way to exploit this.

First, you set up this dating site...


Posted by: OFE | Link to this comment | 01- 6-10 10:36 AM
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331: Quite the opposite, I have no energy to scream at anyone -- I just muse on the sad impermanance of everything while observing the passing scene.

The JP Donleavy reference reminds me I must read The Ginger Man.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 01- 6-10 10:38 AM
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Who can take a scalp,
wrap it up in red?
Cover it in protein
extruded from follicles?
The gingerman.
The gingerman can.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01- 6-10 10:45 AM
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John Barth wrote a whole story about sperm.

Laurie Anderson wrote a song about sperm.


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 01- 6-10 11:08 AM
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Also, I remember reading A Separate Peace and thinking that it was interesting, but not that compelling. Then being reminded of it when I watched Gattica which seemed to have a relationship between the two male leads that similarly combined resentment, affection, rivalry, and friendship.


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 01- 6-10 11:10 AM
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333: While you are contemplating getting back into Donleavy let me recommend (not for the first time on htis blog) checking out The Onion Eaters. Not a great work of art by any means, but a book that has pulled me out of doldrums on a number of occasions. Worth a read if only for the antics of minor characters like Nails Mcfugger and Lead Kindly Light of the Contorted Backside.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 01- 6-10 11:17 AM
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323: We need to invite them all onto a big spaceship and then crash it into the sun.

Sure and repeat the mistake the Golgafrinchans made.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 01- 6-10 11:19 AM
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BostonianGirl:

http://www.unfogged.com/archives/comments_8544.html#811959

Is that it?


Posted by: Benquo | Link to this comment | 01- 6-10 2:39 PM
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I liked part of The Ginger Man that I read, but it turned out to contain too much sex to be readable. Far preferred The Horse's Mouth.


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 01- 6-10 3:14 PM
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338: obviously, a superior model is to retreat to our underground cities, leaving the surface of the earth to the Beautiful People. Then, at night, we return to the surface and eat them.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 01- 7-10 2:19 AM
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I don't think I'd even heard of A Separate Peace in 9th grade. Or any grade until, probably, it came up in an unfogged thread.


Posted by: fake accent | Link to this comment | 01- 7-10 2:44 AM
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i don't 'get' that sort of writing either, because i can't focus on something long enough to find a second meaning. so i don't read particularly dense literature often, though i enjoy reading criticism of books i've read. but it seems so wasteful, to sit around trying to find a second, third, etc. reading of a work which might not even exist.


Posted by: yoyo | Link to this comment | 01- 7-10 2:08 PM
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i liked A Seperate PEace a lot when we read it in 9th grade, my taller and more popular friend who took the class with me did not. i do not know if i 'got' it then, and don't really know how to tell if one 'gets' something


Posted by: yoyo | Link to this comment | 01- 7-10 2:10 PM
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