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

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Interesting. I'd say I mostly agree with you, though I liked it more than you did. I was largely unaware of Gaitskill's apparent reputation when I read the book earlier this year. Also, I am either too young to "remember things I'd forgotten" about the 80s she is writing about, or I didn't have friends like that (which is only to say that, if that's what people are praising about it, I can't relate). It did not occur to me to see anything especially "transgressive" in the book. In the end, I did like it, though I had a hard time seeing what the big deal was. It struck me as fairly conventional, with some nice local prose peppered throughout, which is pretty much what kept me reading.


I gave up about halfway through, so I can't really comment on the book as a whole, but I was disappointed, given all of the praise it received. Like Richard, I'm too young to remember the 80s, so maybe that was part of the problem. But given the number of movies and books about the 80s (good and bad), it didn't strike me as transgressive at all. And as you pointed out, the characters were lifeless and cold.

Rodney Welch

Excellent criticism, Dan.

Two thoughts, not entirely related to your post but nonetheless generated by it:

* I like Gaitskill's prose and suspect I would like "Veronica" -- but there's a problem I've always had with writing that is top-heavy with sex. It seems exhibitionistic, as if the author is advertising his or her own world-weary sophistication. It's a way of turning yourself into a pin-up. I often wonder if there isn't a message at the bottom of it all, which is, basically: I'm hot. I've done everything I've described and I've done it a lot and there are no end of people waiting for me to do it with them. Take a number.

At the same time, I have to balance that thought against the fact that sexual adventure is simply part of life and as worthy a topic for fiction as anything else. It's just that I tend to agree with Anthony Burgess that when people write about sex they are basically writing about how they, personally, make love. So in a way it can take the reader out of the book.

*Your comments made me think of Christopher Sorrentino's "Trance," which is itself very much a "document" novel, and a rather dull one: a semi-fictionalized DeLilloesque regurgitation of the Patty Hearst story that has little imaginative or interpretive scope, no fresh insight regarding the story or its era, and gives the mind almost nothing on which to feed, leaving me to wonder why the author even bothered. Critics loved it though.

Jimmy Beck

Since you seized upon the idea of "capturing a period," Dan, I'm wondering if you've read Brock Clarke's essay in the latest VQR that dismantles Rachel Donadio's (and others', especially Tom Wolfe) argument that we're living in a nonfiction moment and the novel cannot do it justice blah blah blah. Anyway, it's a terrific essay (Clarke's, that is) and the Veronica reviewers' wrongheaded fixation on the idea that fiction's most essential job is to "capture" a real time and place reminded me of it.

Dan Green

I haven't read that essay, but it does look like something I'll want to track down.

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