Rivers, roads, and rails

April 9, 2011 § 2 Comments

It makes sense in my head to use this song as prelude to the actual post – it’s a song I’ve listened to for years (15, count ’em) when I’m angry and want to stay angry, in order to hone that anger to a fatally sharp point. The lyrics kick ass, and while the harmonies can be sweet these boys are pissed off and aren’t in the mood to talk it out. Love this album, love this song.

Anyway.  This link from n+1 was sent along by a certain friend of ours, who shall remain nameless but whose relocation to the southern hemisphere had better be temporary or we’re all going to die.

Short story and novel – American writing today

Read it. I had so many reactions, some positive (yes, I do think that short fiction is held under the thumb of MFA programs and the rigid form required of The New Yorker and its ilk, although part of the problem is that there is no ilk because no one publishes short fiction anymore), some negative (I will cut you! Lorrie Moore only writes about cancer nowadays? Are you fucking serious? And specificity as a shortcut to nostalgia? How about specificity as the concretization of our generation’s media/consumer culture saturation and our way of representing that experience?). But mostly I was awed and inspired – yo, bitch is angry and unafraid. She takes down everyone in this article, the old masters and the young whippersnappers, and while she isn’t correct all the time or even most of the time, she is unapologetic and scathing and clear-eyed in her attack. It’s so rare to read from anyone nowadays, but certainly from a woman. She might have been listening to the Posies.



§ 2 Responses to Rivers, roads, and rails

  • J. says:

    Okay, now that I’ve fully realized when this article was written, I can make an actual intelligent comment about it. We’ve also hashed some of it out in person so, whatever blah blah she’s right and she’s wrong but it doesn’t matter if she’s wrong because she’s right, in a sense blah blah. Alongside Bookslut article, I started thinking less about the writers and more about the criticism and well, if you will, the man in general. Should Batuman also be a little bit pissed at the people who compile the “Best American Short Stories”–the people who decide what is Best and send it out to readers as such? Is it all a kind of ouroboros where writers write about nostalgic subjects or cancer or what-have-you because those are the stories most recognized by the publishers of Bests and then other writers then conceptualize these things as what makes a “good story” and continue to write this way?

    Also, reflecting on women writers and women critics and women in general, I am reminded of this–http://www.theatlanticwire.com/entertainment/2011/03/ayelet-waldman-vs-katie-roiphe/36104/
    It makes me sad–not that I particularly like Katie Roiphe or Ayelet Waldman, but that Roiphe’s criticism is so easily reduced to a hair-pulling bitch fight. Plus, a lot of the comments and complaints about Roiphe’s writing in general are that she is a bitch, a whore, or weirdly enough, a child-hater. None of these are particularly salient points about criticism. Then I think about how women who come into the store seem only to be rude to us and not co-worker Tweedle Dee or co-worker Tweedle Dum. Bummer. Does everything have to be about the dick, or can we just talk as people with differing opinions about Michael Chabon?

    • M says:

      I hadn’t read that link, which is funny because I read the original essay and plenty of follow-up about it.

      How sad. Such an opportunity to talk about substantial things, and instead Roiphe’s a bitch and Waldman’s bragging about her man? It seems we do it to ourselves sometimes. The phallus of power and inequality beats us down so often and in so many areas of the world, and rather than fight it we fight each other for its attention. Either the man is smarter than we think, or we are much dumber than we think.


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