Literature

This Minnesota Boy Hated Garrison Keillor Forever

Garrison Keillor is the most overrated writer in the history of overrated writers. He was a blight upon literature and a stain upon everything that was good about Minnesota.

Minnesota is the scream of Paul Westerberg, the howl of moral outrage from Sinclair Lewis, the brutal honesty of Tim O'Brien, the cultural criticism of F. Scott Fitzgerald, the soul of Bob Dylan and the journalism of David Carr. Against them, Keillor was a twee, wet-nosed pretender full of sexual repression and Reader's Digest anecdotes.

Fuck Garrison Keillor. Right in the earhole. Fuck him forever.

Salt will cover the ground when he is gone. I have already forgotten him. My victory is complete.

Settled

Well, this is a relief:

Warner Bros. and the estate of author J.R.R. Tolkien announced Monday that they amicably resolved an $80 million lawsuit over the alleged digital exploitation of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. The Tolkien estate and book publisher HarperCollins filed the lawsuit against Warner Bros. in 2012 alleging that the company had breached contract by marketing online games, slot machines, and other gambling-related merchandise based on Tolkien's books. The estate claimed the 1969 rights agreement entitled the studio to create only “tangible” merchandise associated with the books.

I was worried that the Tolkien estate was going broke. Hopefully, they ended up with somewhere close to half of the $80 million they were suing for. If you're like me, and I know I am, then you prefer your Tolkien on the printed page and not on the silver screen or some Blu-Ray player.  I mean, the movies were good, and they really exceeded expectations, but aren't you wondering when they'll just reboot the whole thing and cash in again?

Fraud

The tiny islet of Riddarholmen, home to a 13th-century church full of entombed Swedish royalty, is an oasis of dead calm in cosmopolitan Stockholm, an odd place to witness the relaunch of an international phenomenon. But it happens to host the headquarters of Norstedts, the publisher of Stieg Larsson’s Millennium trilogy (80 million copies strong) and its new sequel, known Stateside as The Girl in the Spider’s Web, written posthumously by a different writer, David Lagercrantz.
“We have had journalists all over the world to come and hear the story about Stieg Larsson and his books,” editor-in-chief Eva Gedin said at the start of Wednesday morning’s press conference. “Tourists have made pilgrimages to some of those places in which his books take place … It has been eleven years since we published the first book in Sweden, and we felt that the time was right for a continuation.”
It’s also been ten years since Larsson died of a heart attack at age 50, soon after signing his book contract, leaving his estate by default to his distant father and brother, and excluding — by law — his partner of 32 years, Eva Gabrielsson, who has fought the family ever since. It seems on the surface an all-too-familiar conflict — a fight for the right to print money off the name of the deceased — but the real quarry is capital of the intellectual kind. It’s a public argument over who has the knowledge, acumen, and integrity to manage a famous author’s estate — not to mention the characters, plotlines, and political messages that run through Larsson’s darkly moralistic books.
In other words, it's just another fraud. I hope someone makes a lot of money off of it, because this is the sort of well that runs dry fast. And I love how every article makes Eva Gabrielsson out to be the bad person in all of this. She's saying "stop robbing from Stieg Larsson's legacy" and, of course, everyone else is saying, "let's wring more blood out of the stone."

One Little Rant of Mine


There are some who equate Gore Vidal with Christopher Hitchens. Please.

Vidal made art; Hitchens was a hack journalist who never, ever created anything of artistic value at all. He was a public intellectual only because, late in life, he pandered to conservatives and made a big deal out of hating God.

Which Christopher Hitchens work rises to the level of achievement equal to Burr? Or Lincoln? None.

Vidal didn't care about any of that--he wrote a string of literary classics that will be read well into the future and his late in life musings, some of which were quite deranged, will be forgotten. There is no comparing the two, ever.

Sigmund Freud and Literature, Not Science


Really, where's the controversy here?
Psychoanalytic theory has changed a lot in the 75 years since his death, but literature still feels the strong influence of Freud's ideas, argues Jane Ciabattari.
This is the polite way of saying that Sigmund Freud was wrong about everything. The article then goes into the 20th Century's attempt to understand his work:
Freud’s theories also have inspired literary critics for more than a century.

In the 1940s, Lionel Trilling noted the “poetic quality” of Freud’s principles, which, he wrote, descended from “classic tragic realism… a view which does not narrow and simplify the human world for the artist, but, on the contrary, opens and complicates it”.
 
Postmodernism, Structuralism and Post-Structuralism – including the work of French theorists Claude Levi-Strauss, Roland Barthes, Jacques Lacan, Michel Foucault, Jacques Derrida, Gilles Deleuze and Julia Kristeva – all have roots in Freud’s thinking. 
Susan Sontag argued against Freud and for an “erotics of art” in her 1964 essay Against Interpretation. Harold Bloom applied Freud’s Oedipus complex to rivalries among poets and their precursors in his The Anxiety of Influence (1973), an approach given a feminist slant by Sandra Gilbert and Susan Gubar in Forward into the Past: The Complex Female Affiliation Complex (1985). Peter Brooks mined Freud’s dream-work for ideas of how novels are plotted in Reading for the Plot (1992).
If you keep trying to apply Freud to science, you will fail every time. If you accept Freud as a philosopher or as someone who made an attempt to understand the human condition, he is very relevant. Just not "scientific." He is wonderful as far as forming the basis of an argument about the workings of the human mind, but only inasmuch as your fiction will allow.

Bringing Stefan Zweig Back Into Print


Stefan Zweig is a writer everyone should know:
Stefan Zweig was once ‘the world’s most translated author’ – then he faded into obscurity in the English-speaking world. But a revival in interest is under way, reports Matthew Anderson.
A few years ago the director Wes Anderson was browsing the shelves of a bookshop in his adopted home of Paris when he made a chance discovery. He took down a copy of Beware of Pity, a 1939 novel by the Austrian writer Stefan Zweig, recently re-released in English after years out of print. “I think I read the first page in the store and thought, ‘OK, this is a new favourite writer of mine,’” Anderson told Variety.
Anderson has used Zweig's work to make The Grand Budapest Hotel, a film that it's going to be impossible not to see. I don't know exactly how you would view Zweig today--and how are we going to view Anderson as well? Zweig, in his lifetime, enjoyed a popularity that has eluded Anderson. 

Zweig's impact across European culture has to be gauged in that arena. It would be too easy to categorize him as a popular author with little substance--that would be unfair. It would be unfair to try and rate him against authors that were in pursuit of other ideals and who eschewed commercial success. Zweig clearly went after popularity and wanted to be widely read--in other words, accessible in a medium that elevates the inaccessible to ridiculous heights. But there's no question that he had an impact on the culture:
“He was one of the first star authors, and even in an age with no TV and very few pictures in the newspapers, people recognised him wherever he went,” says Zweig’s biographer Oliver Matuschek, who has spent 20 years researching the writer’s life and works. “The sheer volume is unbelievable,” says Matuschek. “In the collected works in German there are 36 volumes, and that doesn’t include the 500 pieces of journalism that were published in newspapers and magazines in his lifetime.”
That may explain it--the fact that he wrote in his native German and not English. Translations of his work were commonplace enough, but without the advantage of being a native speaker of English, Zweig may have been forgotten almost entirely because we tend to place more value on English language writers. I would call that a bias.

The Only Oscar Winner Worth Seeing


I never got around to writing about the Oscars because, like the Grammys, I view them as a complete and utter waste of time. This is because the culture, and the industries of music and film, have moved on, leaving the older generation completely in thrall of their own power to hand out awards and be relevant to a process they no longer care about.

The best movie I saw last year was Frozen. Hands down. And it's a billion dollar movie, to boot.

In terms of being influenced by actual literature, this film takes the Hans Christian Andersen tale of
Snedronningen, which is Danish for The Snow Queen, and makes it one of the most positive portrayals of women ever. For a Disney film to dispense with all of the cliches (except, of course, for the dead parents) is to open things up to a higher level of creativity.

Anyway, I love this film. I'm glad it won an Oscar. But it should have been nominated as best picture and it should have won.

Time to Write Poetry


If Obamacare has arrived in your life and if it has given you more leisure time, I guess you need to make the Republican Party happy and start writing poetry:
Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) on Sunday said Democrats are pushing poetry as an alternative to holding a job.
During an appearance on Fox News, he referred to the results of a report by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) that finds millions of American workers might move away from full-time employment because of benefits offered through ObamaCare.
Some lawmakers, such as Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), say that the law allows workers to alleviate themselves from “job-lock” — staying in a job that’s otherwise unwanted or disliked, simply to collect healthcare benefits.
Media reports say Pelosi fired back at the Republican interpretation of the CBO report — that ObamaCare kills jobs — by saying the workers are now able to leave jobs to “[follow] their aspirations to be a writer; to be self-employed; to start a business.”
Gowdy honed in on the remarks, saying they are part of a larger effort to smooth over flaws with the healthcare reform law and its rollout during an election year.
“What the liberals and the Democrats want you to believe is, ‘Well, but you’ll have time to write poetry,’ ” Gowdy said. “Well, that’s great until you try and buy your grandkid a birthday present or you try and pay the heating bill.”
Robert Frost never had a problem buying farms or giving presents or teaching people how to write. Why do Republicans hate the Humanities? Why do Republicans hate Americans like Robert Frost?

When a person has more free time to begin writing poetry and living a life of leisure and art, their quality of life skyrockets (unless they have no talent, of course). No one really believes that we will see a new poet laureate emerge from the ranks of those employed solely because they couldn't otherwise afford health care but we could see a happier society based on things that make Republicans shit their pants. Well worth it, in my opinion.

Shakespeare in the Digital Age


Exposing old books and manuscripts to more interaction and more scholarship is a good thing; however, I sometimes wonder if there isn't an unhealthy fixation on certain eras. The fixation on all things Shakespeare means people rarely get a chance to expose themselves to the people who lived fifty or a hundred years before or after him and if there are no collections, no emphasis on those parts of the canon and no exposure to the best and the brightest, not all of whom lived at the same time of course, then they will further suffer and be ignored.

If someone could be exposed to Richard Brinsley Sheridan, John Skelton, or Thomas Carlyle in such a ways as to evaluate their works and compare them to their peers, could they not elevate these literary giants to the level of Shakespeare? Or would bias doom them all? Ben Jonson could easily challenge those who claim that Shakespeare was the greatest English writer. I hope they are putting out his works digitally as well.

Shakespeare invites a lot of bias. Why not let people argue that he wasn't as good as they say he was?

Gore Vidal 1925-2012



Gore Vidal, the author, playwright, politician and commentator whose novels, essays, plays and opinions were stamped by his immodest wit and unconventional wisdom, his nephew said Tuesday.

Vidal died at his home in the Hollywood Hills at about 6:45 p.m. Tuesday of complications from pneumonia, Burr Steers said. Vidal had been living alone in the home and had been sick for "quite a while," he said.

Replacing the Word Kindle With Nook

I don't know if I would go so far as to say that a great work of art has been vandalized, but it stands to reason that, from now until the end of E-book, there will be copies of this floating through the Internet and a future generation will be puzzled, and someone will have to write a lengthy blog post about how this came to be.

I'm not going to be that person. I'm a Kindle person myself.