Posts Tagged ‘20th Century American Literature’

Where a review is held up to the light for translucence, opacity, or transparency..

The death of Elmore Leonard had the Times Literary Supplement combing their archives for any evidence of his existence.  They came up with a slight compendium of allusive articles to Mr. Leonard.

Here is the listing with compulsory hyperlinks:



Here is the review proper:


Besides a gush of worship for Raymond Chandler in the first half of the review, the critic sort of skims over the catalogue of works the TLS had ignored for the prior x years of his career. The reviewer makes it clear that Chandler was in Candyland and that Leonard resides in the slums of Atlantic City-esque holes. Apart from that I was never really impelled toward a Leonard work and this mishmash of a review doesn’t compel one to the task either.



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"He travels the fastest who travels alone"


This quote sums up the book Martin Eden, for the most part anyways. Martin is ill, with love that is and his class-consciousness isn’t really helping his malady. Martin is an ambitious sailor who has a penchant/knack for writing. It is only at the end of the book that he can finally see that he has achieved what he intended to do but by then he has lost Ms. Morse and is not getting her back. So what does our hero do? He kills himself by jumping from the porthole of a ship he has taken passage on.

This book had a tremendous effect on me. As a fellow writer and as a human. I was filled with doubt in college about certain things, far from home and wondering what this person in the mirror was all about. I read this book and the loathing and self-doubt, I can honestly say, only increased. Am I angry at this book?  Heck no! I am glad that it showed me the depths of despair that one can attain. Martin Eden also helped me through the lack of self-confidence in my writing that I had built up over the years. If that sailor could do it, than this guy can do it. You kin’ do it.

The overt struggle between the self and the society it belongs to, that runs through the novel, gets a little drab by the end. But there is always McTeague if you are interested in that sort of thing.

Michael E. K. McCullough


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When I was in high school I got in trouble during Physical Science class. I was a freshman and didn’t really care for school at all. My teacher, Mrs. Stonbraker, ordered me to write 500 words on why I shouldn’t misbehave. Naturally I wrote something to the effect of: If I misbehave I will not only do bad in school but I could let my family down and blah blah blah, for 500 words. When you are 14, 500 words is an eternity. The quality of the assignment, needless to say, was execrable.  Which is what I found out about Donald Barthelme’s The Indian Uprising. Louis Menand in The New Yorker praises it as “…one of the great literary responses to the Vietnam War…” and that “The babble of discursive registers mimics the incoherence of war against guerillas, a war in which the two sides are always in danger of becoming morally indistinguishable.” Now if you have connected the dots you are of either two minds: 1. I am crazy to go against Don B. he opened the doors and let all the bullshit in.  2. Hell yeah, he is a craptastic writer with nothing to say. After reading The Indian Uprising, I have thought that Don B. was, simply, a piece of shit hack who aped at being an author. Clearly he had aspirations, ambition and plenty of theory (read bullshit) to dupe any one and everyone into believing that here was something somewhat new for them to think about.

To quote Barthelme in an excerpt from the Louis Menand article we can see how people got steamrolled; Had I decided to go into the conceptual-art business…I could turn out railroad cars full of that stuff every day.”  Menand says that Barthelme “…used hackneyed prose in his pieces all the time, and he was a connoisseur of the linguistically tired and poor.’ Right ’cause that is what I want to read, something that is tired and poor.

Now on to the actual literary criticism.  Aside from being ‘tired and poor’ Barthelme doesn’t like to convey any sort of reality in his piece. Of course there is a war going on, an invasion if you will, but what is the main thrust of this crap? If it is to make dumb jokes and be ironic well then Mr. Barthelme has certainly succeeded.  But if it is to add to the shelf of literature well then he has certainly failed. Epic Fail Barthelme. Ha ha ha.

I wish this man was still alive so I could speak with him and tell him that in 100 years he will be remembered along with the backstreet boys as some of the worst dreck this society has ever produced. 


If you enjoyed this please check back as I buy my first Thomas Pynchon book in the coming weeks.

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Over at Salon.com a new Flannery O’Connor biography was reviewed.  I was surprised to learn of the animosity between her and Carson McCullers.  Having studied Southern Gothic Literature in college I was happy to read this review of her biography. It mentions G. K. Chesterton in passing, relating his Catholic faith to Ms. O’Connor’s.  Here is the link to the article:


Her influence is mentioned but not proved in the article so I guess one must read Brad Gooch’s “Flannery: A Life of Flannery O’Connor” in order to discover her trickle-down effect.

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John Updike has died.

Now may a new generation emerge?

Oh the horror of someone who has exhausted their pen on mindless suburban fictive elements.  I wrote a while back on his sheepish review of Toni Morrison. Yeah that’s all I have to say about Mr. Updike.

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So I’m a newbie to the world of Thomas Pynchon. Though I should know all about his accomplishments and such, I don’t. But I have stumbled upon the Wiki for the notoriously reclusive author. I don’t know why I swallowed the fly. In other words, I don’t know what brought me to him today, maybe it is Divine intervention. Maybe not, maybe it is my curiosity with/for American 20th Century Literature.  Maybe I have some urge to debunk? Whatever.

I have read that Mr. Pynchon is releasing a new book in August 2009. Something about Chinatown the movie with LSD, with no Nicholson.(Inherent Vice is the title) For Real Do’ it is a Noir set in Los Angeles that is part Psychedelic all Pynchon or some such stuff. I might buy it if the mood strikes me, then again I might go and buy the complete works of Dickens off of Ebay.

Something about hypertextual belongs here…

Something about influences belongs here…


And some quotes from famous critics belongs here…or can be found here about Mason & Dixon: http://masondixon.pynchonwiki.com/wiki/index.php?title=Mason_%26_Dixon_Reviews


Overall I get quite bored with these newfangled approaches to the basic telling of a story. And O. Henry put it best when he said something about Historical Fiction as a genre. Though I can’t remember what it was.

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I am currently reading the 42nd Parallel by John Dos Passos. Or trying to read anyways… This book is kind of boring, well at least the part about the glorification of the working man and the imminent uprising of the worker constantly on the author’s mind. I wouldn’t suggest reading this experiment of a book.  I would go with something a bit more straightforward, like, In Dubious Battle by Steinbeck. 

Don’t misinform yourself by my comments, Dos Passos knows how to tell a story, and tell it well. It is just that he chooses to throw in Stream of Consciousness and stuff like that, that bores the crap out of me while I am reading it, makes me want to buy Supermarket paperbacks, or write a detective story or something.

Anyways I give this book a d Minus on my Richter Scale. Read at your own peril and get those Christmas gifts before it’s too late. Bye-ya!

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