Tuesday, April 28, 2009

ANOTHER ASPECT OF DUMBNESS in the work of Elaine Showalter

Another aspect of the dumbness of Elaine Showalter became apparent when a friend, TW sent me a list of his favorite novels written by women--- his list by gender which he did with the provocation that ES probably did not include them in her book--- but the listing was something he would not normally do as he like myself is uninterested in the sexual equipment of a writer:

Barbara Pym - Quartet in Autumn
Barbara Comyns - Who Was Changed and Who Who Was Dead
Muriel Spark - The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie
Anna Kavan - Ice
Penelope Mortimer - The Handyman
Penelope Fitzgerald - Gate of Angels
Anita Brookner - Incident in the Rue Langier
Hannah Green - The Dead of the House
Shirley Jackson - We Have Always Lived in the Castle
Tremor of Forgery - Patricia Highsmith
Ilse Aichinger - The Greater Hope
Margarita Karapanou - Kassandra and the Wolf
Espido Freire – Irlanda

TW added for completeness in a subsequent email, THE GATE OF ANGELS by Penelope Fitzgerald.

The Aichinger novel in particular reminded me of another further dumbness of books like ES’s.

It is bad enough that she has chosen to write only about writers who possess a vagina but she was also requiring them to have American passports… so of course she is limited to writing for example about a pathetic and minor writer like Sylvia Plath when she could have been able to write a far more interesting book if she had gone beyond the narrow focus based upon the passports or self-declared ethnicity of her writers.

I was thinking of novels, stories and poems by writers like Ingeborg Bachmann, Marina Tsvetaeva, Clarice Lispector, Nelida Pinon, Jean Rhys, Violette Leduc …

Wednesday, April 22, 2009


An underlining idea of what I have been trying to do is that one should never really trust academics when it comes to literary matters. They mostly get everything wrong and this has always been so in the modern age. Today,no sane person would ever seriously expect to study literature at an American university as that is the one thing that is not studied in English and foreign language departments at 99% of American universities.

A very good example of your typical tenured, honoured, respected academic is Elaine Showalter. She has chosen to publish A JURY IF HER PEERS, a 608 page study of American women writers. Of course the absurdity of such a book is self-evident as if it was really of interest to study writers on the basis of whether or not they have a vagina or a penis... but even allowing for this sort of trivializing ghettoization is the simple fact that she overlooks Evelyn Scott whose body of work from the 1920's 30s, 40s is far superior to any of the writers she does actually pretend to discuss: most of them are minor to say the least and deserving of their obscurity when compared to so many other writers who happen to have other physical attributes... but it is in wondering how she could overlook Evelyn Scott.. who introduced Faulkner's THE SOUND AND THE FURY and received for her troubles his back-handed compliment, as being pretty good for a woman.. though Faulkner well knew Scott was in so many ways his equal through her actual books: THE WAVE, A CALENDAR OF SIN, BREAD AND A SWORD, THE NARROW HOUSE, BACKGROUND IN TENNESSEE, ESCAPADE...
Of course the real reason Showalter is afraid of such a writer as Scott is simple laziness and tenured academics always avoid the difficult as that is never a good career move. Showalter will drivel on and on about Sylvia Plath, Sara Teasdale and Adrienne Rich...

If a young person wants to actually study literature at a college or university they should probably study geology or botany or chemistry or mathematics... in the former Soviet Union where literature departments were as awful and as stupid as your typical American literature departments the real readers were in the sciences and it was these people who kept alive for instance the work of Mandelstam and many others...

Friday, April 3, 2009

THE SADDEST NEWS: The Collected Stories of Lydia Davis

Sadder even than the famous three saddest words in the English language according to Gore Vidal--- Joyce Carol Oates--- I see that Farrar, Straus & Giroux is about to unleash the collected stories of Lydia Davis in the Fall.

Sad, so sad that Lydia Davis was caught by the virus of wanting to be a so-called creative writer and this virus has for the most part stopped her from being truly socially useful as a translator, a vocation that she was so good in and if she had persisted she could easily be ranked with those other two great translators Helen Lane and Barbara Wright to whom all English speakers are indebted to for having providing some of the most important translations in modern times.

This all too common virus has stopped Davis from finishing her translation of Michel Leiris’s great autobiography RULES OF THE GAME of which she masterfully translated two of the four volumes. RULES OF THE GAME is the most important autobiography in modern literature.

And one can only deeply and profoundly regret the writing of these pathetic pale exhibitions of experimental prose has taken the place of Davis possibly translating Leiris’s PHANTOM AFRICA or some of the many books by Marcel Jouhandeau whose life and work embodied all the terrible modern dilemmas of trust, sexuality, religion and the temptations of extremist politics.

And I am sure I have only scratched the surface of what should be made available in English and sadly it seems that Davis will not have a leading role in that but instead: almost 700 pages of creative writing… Maybe the publishers should have held out for another two hundred pages and Davis could challenge James Joyce’s Ulysses at least in the matter of length.

Interestingly,the publishers have also decided that Davis's work should be compared to the Velvet Underground and helpfully note that the Velvet Underground is a rock band. Nico the most important member of that band is rolling in derisions of laughter in her Berlin grave at the impertinence of this comparison.