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

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The Dixon and Haruf passages are both plainly interior and subjective: exterior details may be the focus, but they are not registered from any position of objectivity; they quite effectively give a sense of the perceiving brain, even if they do not focus on every last perception. The fact that characters are seen, in moments, from the outside as well as the inside is at least as conventional as writing that stays steadfastly in their heads. The absolute nature of your pronouncement--interiority is facile--is, well, facile. Maybe particular representations of interiority should be despised, and a critic would do well to point out which ones these are, and why, but you are simply airing ill-considered gripes.

Dan Green

They're not plainly interior to me.


The information seems to be focalized through Guthrie, but then we have "like bright flecks of gold..." and the "powdery plume." Is that language he would use? No, it creative writing-ese. We are given his sensory perceptions but not his actual thoughts. It's interior, but focused on the exterior.


The low plume of dust picked up from the ground by the truck and lit to gold by the sun is not his perception. He's driving and looking the other way. I doubt that he could see much of that golden plume but dust through the rear view. He has, however, just had a simpler moment of observation: he pauses to look at the silver poplar. We don't know his thoughts, but we do know that he is the sort of man who, cigarette in hand, would be stopped by a tree.


All that stark simplicity is conventional code for "authenticity," but for me it comes straight out of Hemingway and thus is a little too conventional. The repetition of "and" gives it away a bit, that stylistic tic. Of course not having read the novel I'm just basing this assessment on the suggestion that this is a typical paragraph. I have problems with the fact that the one deeper psychological sentence is so vague, when the rest of the paragraph is so concrete. It's like he's saying, "I don't do emotional description well, I'll just write a banal sentence here." But maybe I'm reading to much into one paragraph.


I love the way you comment books!
(and, searching in your archives found very interesting titles to add to my list so thanks!)


Regardless of the literary authorities in the above comments, I agree with your perspective on Plainsong. I also didn't expect to like that novel at first. But by the time that I finished, I loved Haruf's writing. Lately, I've become more interested in writing that is stark. Or, perhaps I'm just tired of rambling insights by MFA grads.

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The Art of Disturbance--Available as Pdf and Kindle Ebook
Literary Pragmatism--Available as a Pdf