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by Ralph Ellison
Disdain is empathy’s evil and more efficient twin, both born of close observation. Novels that consider individual reactions to events must be empathetic. But any novelist who wishes to depict society must harness disdain in order to make the depiction stick for the long term.
For Gordimer, a political writer was one who ruthlessly rendered social breakdown, but who also crafted characters that embodied the possibility of political upheaval and societal renewal; indeed the writer of the truly political novel must himself be driven by this possibility.
A Year in Reading was, if we can dispense with humility for a moment, a huge success, featuring more great essays written by more great authors than we'll ever know what to do with. It also reminds us, as always, how thankful we are for our readers.
I am writing this on a Friday, and I'm supposed to have a baby on Tuesday.
June is overflowing with matrimony -- but it's also the home of another modern ritual, graduation day -- or, as it's more evocatively known, commencement, an ending that's a beginning.
In America it is the privilege of the white man to rollick, even if he is a poor Jew born into moderate squalor. The black man, in this novel at any rate, can only be fucked around; his hope, in this novel, is to discover his own way of doing things.
When you set out to debate “the great American novel,” the stakes are high. We asked nine English scholars to choose one novel as the greatest our country has ever produced.
For all the merits of these books, the question remains: is this literary boomlet an anomaly, a coincidence, or a harbinger?
What Brown wanted to do was lay down a strutting, macho anthem marked by explosions of brass and a guitar that sounds like chrome wheels spinning. He hums a melody to the sax player and a bass line to the bassist. He thumps out a beat for the drummer. He watches a trumpet player struggle, fires him, then re-hires him moments later. And when the singer is ready, he screams out a set of lyrics scratched on a sheet of paper. The song is called “Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag.”
"For a filmmaker to have made 17 movies in 35 years is pretty good. And most of them — we don’t always have enough money to do them justice, but most of them, there was no fighting a rear guard action against a studio to change things or tell you who to cast or whatever, so I have been really lucky."
While The Gospel of Anarchy and Big Machine portray cult largely as madness - albeit a seductive sort of madness - The Instructions and The Book of Dave render cult as that other thing it can be: the basis of a new religion. All four invite reading, tongue-in-cheek, of sections of their text as scripture. The Instructions, naturally, is entirely scripture.
James Ross published just one novel in his lifetime. This is a rare thing because of a paradox that lies at the heart of novel writing: it demands such sustained focus, such persistence, so much raw pig-headed stubbornness that anyone who does it once almost invariably does it again, and again, and again. Once is almost never enough.
There's something for every lover of fiction coming in 2010, but, oddly enough, the dominant theme may be posthumous publication.