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This is a very fine post -- in six or so paragraphs you manage powerfully and concisely to indict a whole way of reviewing and to adumbrate its alternative. I say adumbrate because the review also demonstrates how much of a struggle is ahead of us to forge a critical vocabulary that isn't dependent on the old conventional ways of reading, such that we're always having to use the old vocabulary, so to speak, in quotes (the "characters", the "arc", etc.). Attentiveness to the texts in front of us will suggest the new tools -- something which Dan for one doesn't need to be told.

Maybe 2009 will be a good literary year after all, and one in which I'll now be reading Elias's West Virginia. Thanks for this.


Some issues with this that you might examine.

Also, atrocious punctuation here.

One hesitates to "review" a book like Che Elias's West Virginia (Six Gallery Press), since the conventions of reviewing require a focus on what a book is "about," where fiction is concerned on recapitulating the "story"

...since the conventions of reviewing require a focus on what a book is "about", where fiction is concerned, on recapitulating the "story"...

Otherwise, there's a confusing double-meaning. Can you see it?

What's with the "Thus" etc? You need to understand that using Latinate words and formulations from the last century does not make you the next Ruskin.

Your general thrust is that the choice is either convention or this, another convention, the psuedo-man of knowledge, armed with a fistful of thuses, railing against the gods of commerce that rule the format and depth of typical book reviews.

More ambiguous writing:

"and the reader willing to suspend expectations of character continuity, of narrative "arc" and resolution, of style as a source of information, with the occasional rhetorical flourish,"

Read those items on the list, the first three, fine, we're suspending our expectations of them, but then? what? Are we suspending our expectation of style as a source of information? Of the occasional rhetorical flourish? Or are we perhaps, more likely, embracing them in lieu of the first two.

You just don't have the mental focus to adopt this manner of writing successfully and pull off (because, you are nothing but a parodist) a convincing performance of 'the critic'.

Also, you keep employing the straw man of 'the typical reader' etc, as a means of distancing yourself from the rabble. Sure, there are lots of stupid readers out there, with limited tastes, but you don't become the opposite of that, an intelligent reader with broad tastes, simply by adopting such specious tactics. Instead, you look like a disingenous snob, with this carping about other people's engagement with prose and poetry.

All the best, though, if you are sincerely committed to becoming a worthwhile critic, then you won't mind reading some straight criticism of your own performance, will you?

Dan Green

I don't see the double meaning, no.

Thus means "In conclusion"

We're suspending style as information with the occasional added flourish. Again, I don't see the ambiguity.

I really don't know what "manner of writing" you're referring to. It's the way I've always written. You're free to dislike it.

I believe I'll adopt that as a banner subheading: "Musings of a Disingenuous Snob."

Jim H.

Thanks for pointing out an interesting book. I'd never heard of it. I'll check it out.

Best for the New Year,
Jim H.

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