« Ian McEwan | Main | Style and Depth »



Nigel Beale

I agree with your argument. So would Cyril Connelly I suspect...Here's how he put it: "There will be no false hesitation and woolly profundities, no mystifying, no Proustian onanism."

You say that you enjoyed reading Jesus' Son, that it is "a rather delicate book, working through style, nuance, and indirection..."

You may not want to get into it here, but you're not saying much specifically about what appealed to you

Nigel Beale


Steven Augustine

It's my feeling the literature that isn't reducible to simple or obvious statements (good is good, bad is bad, feed the poor) and matches (or refracts) the depths of human experience with (or through) the sophistication of Art *is* exhibiting an "overarching standard of engagement." But the Truth it engages with, overarchingly, is ambiguous and rejected as unpalatable.

Yes, indeed, the great writers "play games" because consciousness does. Ulin's notion of what "going after...something fundamental" actually means was probably accurate, a few centuries ago.

The foundational mistake in attitude or approach that Ulin betrays in this is his apparent failure to grasp that all these so-called formalist "tricks" have evolved to keep pace with human experience, which is no longer a matter of some writer needing to remind us all to "be good to each other" or to glorify "god" in our actions or to "resist the wicked King".

"Postmodernism" didn't fall from the sky; if it (or whatever "literary" vs "literalist" technique) feels disjunctive/discursive/ambiguous/strange...welcome to the era. There is no such thing as an Art too pure to have referents.

The pleasure we take in pure Art isn't divorced from our ability to recognize the Truth in the purity of it; likewise, the minor art of political polemic sounds its array of dull or sour notes because we know it's missing the Truth in an attempt to re-assert a comforting worldview that's decades or even centuries out of date: the fable of the evil few and the many good. In a post-Einstein universe, the pointing finger, via the curvature of spacetime, points back at itself.

I read into these constant rebukes against Art a terrible nostalgia.


I don't see anything in Ulin's piece that can be read as an attack against literary postmodernism or experimentation. When he refers to "playing games," he may just as well be talking about contemporary high-concept "literary" schlockmeisters (Walter Kirn, Michael Chabon, e.g.). I think there's a valid argument to be made against the privileging of prose that engages with our essential selves and reaches down to the fundaments of human experience, yanking aside the veil of reality, etc., but such a "description" applies to Beckett as well.


People have been wrestling with these issues since Plato, and deriding them sounds childish. To me, a good writer deals with these issues – the hard-to-express concepts and issues apparently fundamental to the greater part of humanity – with delicacy, style, and craft. A mediocre writer is one who hits you over the head because s/he lacks ability, or has great ability and is boring, boring, boring to the bone – unintelligent or uninteresting, or lacking depth.

Lloyd Mintern

"There were some geese that appeared to be squabbling to no end, and I was trying to decipher what they were so bothered about, but then this man came along and stamped his foot. That was the end of that." Kierkegaard

Steven Augustine

"That was the end of that."

...until the guy walked off to have a beer and a noisy nap and the geese re-convened the discussion.

Finn Harvor

Not a bad comeback. Laughed out loud -- not something I usually do when trolling the net. But, er, ahh, dude, since we're all quacking around more or less the same pond, what's up with your remark at another marsh than I, ah, "buried" your interview at my site?
A duck who aspires to be a goose

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been saved. Comments are moderated and will not appear until approved by the author. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.


Post a comment

Comments are moderated, and will not appear until the author has approved them.

Your Information

(Name and email address are required. Email address will not be displayed with the comment.)

Sorrentino banner
In Progress