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

COLLECTED ESSAYS ON LITERATURE AND CRITICISM:

EFN2

EXPERIMENTAL FICTION NOW


  • A survey of current writers whose work might be called "experimental." Includes a prefatory discussion defining terms, as well as essays on David Foster Wallace, George Saunders, Gary Lutz, Ben Marcus, Mark Danielewski, John Keene, Shelley Jackson, Steve Tomasula, more than a dozen others.
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Iww

INNOVATIVE WOMEN WRITERS


  • "I offer here no overarching theory about the nature or direction of innovative writing by women writers, although as I do note in several of the essays in the first section, there is a recognizable affinity among numerous current writers for what I am here calling 'fabulation.'" Includes essays on Rikki Ducornet, Aimee Bender, Noy Holland, Helen DeWitt, Eimear McBride, more than a dozen others.
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APF (2)

AMERICAN POSTMODERN FICTION


  • "Although the term has come to identify a general attitude toward traditional intellectual assumptions or, more specifically, discernibly related practices in philosophy, the social sciences, and all of the arts, "postmodern" was originally a critical label attached to an emergent group of American fiction writers perceived to be challenging established literary convention."
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Realisms

REALISMS

BSS

BETWEEN SILLINESS AND SATIRE:BLACK HUMOR FICTION


  • In the early to mid 1960s, an iconoclastic mode of American fiction that came to be called "black humor" presaged the larger movement succeeding it that eventually came to be known as postmodernism. This volume looks at the essential features of black humor fiction, with essays on all the major black humorists: Joseph Heller, Kurt Vonnegut, Bruce Jay Friedman, Terry Southern, and more.
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AODPurdy

THE ART OF DISTURBANCE: THE NOVELS OF JAMES PURDY

My Post (6)

MANY WINDOWS: ON EXPERIMENTAL FICTION


  • Is a work of experimental fiction really an experiment? What was metafiction? Experimental fiction and tradition. New Romancers. Poetic structures. Fiction as performance. Varieties of experimental fiction.
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Angle

A WIDER ANGLE: AMERICAN FICTION AT THE PERIPHERY


  • Beyond the major publishers’ seasonal lists to out-of-the-way presses and lesser-known writers.
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Litsphere

THE LITERARY SPHERE: TAKING CRITICISM ONLINE


  • "In this volume I have included most of my substantial posts on the blog as medium, as well as literary culture online in general. . .They are presented in chronological order, from 2004 to 2019. I have chosen this arrangement because it shows the development of my thinking about online literary criticism and because it may perhaps be interesting for readers to survey the issues that arose as literary blogging itself developed. "
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Tiol

THE IDEA OF LITERATURE


  • What do we talk about when we talk about literature? This volume explores that question by, first of all, looking "inside the text" at the dynamics of reading and the tangible effects of writing. It then moves "outside the text" to consider the relevance of social context and culture to perceptions of literature, as well as the assumption it is the writer's job to "say something" of political or moral value in addition to (even as a substitute for) creating literary art.
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My Post (5)

LITERARY AESTHETICS

Lituni

LITERATURE IN THE UNIVERSITY


  • Inventing Literature. Performing Literature. Reading Literature. Theorizing Literature. Historicizing Litera- ture. Relinquishing Literature. Reclaiming Literature?
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LR

LET'S REVIEW: BOOK REVIEWING AS LITERARY CRITICISM


  • A collection of essays considering the current state of general-interest book reviewing. Topics include: negative vs. positive reviewing, gatekeeping, writers reviewing writers, and criticism in cyberspace, among others.
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« Making Life Beautiful | Main | Rigid and Impacted »

07/13/2005

Comments

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R. A. Rubin

The writer asks himself Post-Hemingway -- How much is too much?" Sure, I could describe my character physically down to her cuticles, and I could give her a nervous twitch, or hand her a cane.

The trouble with Irving, an entertaining novelist, he can't go to the next level because he is hoplessly mired in Liberal attitudes, so his characters must live out the little moral lessons pertaining to the light-weight ideas that could be found in Hillary Clinton's, "It Takes a Village."

Scott

I'll agree that that prose is pretty tortuous. I think what Jensen is trying to articulate are the intangible parts of someone--the little tics that make each of us unique.

Of course, this is tautalogical: A good novelist personifies by giving each character the things that make each character unique.

I think much more interesting than saying that novelsts characterize with saggy breasts or personality tics would be to say how novelists achieve lucid characters. It's difficult to get the right balance of telling about a character but letting the reader complete the impression in her head. I also think there's an art to finding the right details, the banal parts of life that, for all their insignificance, are telling.

Jonathan

There is a difference between dumb hurmor and smart humor, I think. Of course, there's the dumb kind of dumb humor and the smart kind of dumb humor. There may be even a dumb kind of smart humor! Humor can be based on a sene of incongruity or cognitive dissonance. There's that old carpenter's joke: "I've cut this board three times and its still not long enough." That's a smart joke, although maybe a dumb example.

I think you parse this journalistic prose too carefully. That is, these assertions aren't meant to withstand such intelligent scrutiny. The sentence you have trouble with is just trying to say: characterization is a matter of capturing the quidditas of an individual self, not of grouping together a lot of "identifying marks" like hair color.

David Milofsky

Is there something wrong with "journalistic prose?" When bloggers look down their noses at the prose of other critics one has to wonder. At the same time, I think Jensen has missed the point of Irving's work. His early novels were energetic and very funny but then, of course, he became famous. His problem now is not that he's liberal or not brainy enough, but that he seems to take it all too seriously, with the comparisons of himself with Dickens and Wagner. I haven't finished Until I Find You, but it smacks of self-consciousness to me, as did the earlier Son of the Circus, as well as too many research assistants. Here you find everything you never wanted to know about tattooing and tattooists, for instance, with a resultant loss of pace and characterization. But no one who knows very much about literature can doubt Irving's gift, his sense of style and language, which makes all the tendentiousness all the more regrettable.

Jonathan

There's nothing wrong with journalistic prose, just that journalists writing on deadlines may not have time to fix sentences like that one about "suasion," or to formulate their ideas with the requisite theoretical precision. I'd hate for someone to spend an hour criticizing a sentence that I wrote on my blog. I'm sure I write quite a few bad ones. Dan formulate his ideas with a great deal of care, and might be the exception to the rule among bloggers. I have a feeling he actually writes DRAFTS of his posts.

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On Contemporary Fiction