Beyond the Blurb: On Critics and Criticism. Published by Cow Eye Press

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Very interesting. Thanks for this, Dan.


Yes, fiction as critique of society is hoary cliché. Yet how can we really separate it, ultimately, from "aesthetic" concerns? Does not Proust offer a critique of his society? Not in some cheesy, reformist way, but at a very deep level. How about Gilbert Sorrentino? I read his fiction as a devastating critique of society, the phoniness of the way people speak about their lives. This critique takes place through aesthetics. I studied with Gil Sorrentino, and nobody is a bigger aesthete than him, but his concern is also a social one, and that is wrapped up of the "seriousness" of his work. So I think you are missing the point by seeing social critique only as a sort of Ibsenesque social reformism. Maybe the blame lies with critics, with their shorthand way of talking about these problems.

Dan Green

I don't have a problem with the idea that fiction engages with social forces at this very "deep" level. This is perhaps the equivalent of the built-in social critique of genre fiction that I discussed. My problem is partly, as you suggest, with critics who implicitly disregard the aesthetic qualities of literature in favor of cultural criticism, but it's also with some writers, like Michael Collins, who freely admit their goal is "critiquing society."


Hasn't that social critique as articulated through "serious" literature always remained essentially the same since the dawn of modernity? And haven't we, in the long run, always privileged those works whose principal achievement is artistic? In the end, I think that we'll remember Michael Moore--speaking of documentary films--more for his having upended the form than for the message he bears.

Gilbert Sorrentino has never written a page that wasn't venemously opposed to corruption--corruption and the forms it takes are the great themes of his fiction--and yet I believe, vis a vis everyday politics and politicians, he's said "It has nothing to do with me," or words to that effect. Sorrentino thinks a corrupt society is the natural state of affairs--just keep your hands off art. That's how I read him, anyway. Probably why nobody likes him. He says, "all the hip ad execs, and smart editors, and executives, and downtownster mutual fund managers--well, there's no hope for you. Didn't you know? Your lives are intrinsically worthless. So enjoy!" I can see how that might be a buzzkill.



Your commentaries are often incisive, persuasive and always elegantly composed.

Like so many others, I do not myself blog or maintain a site of any kind, yet I am a devoted follower of literary blogs like yours. I hope the fact that I do not blog will not lead you to discount this suggestion:

I am fustrated that your posts too often seem generated by other bloggers' posts. While certainly not a bad thing, the effect is sometimes anti-climatic and repetitive. Please consider posting more generative commentaries that testify to your own, home-spun musings.

Best wishes.


Dan Green

I thought this one was my own home-spun musing.

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