The name “Viktor Shklovsky” comes up a lot at this site (I’m guilty of mentioning it in perhaps half of my posts), and one might wonder why the man and his work matters. Below, I’ll try and lay out what Viktor Shklovsky has done for me, and what he might be able to do for you, too! Because Shklovsky might be the single most interesting and, above all else, useful critic I’ve ever encountered…
[H]eld accountable for nothing, life fades into nothingness. Automatization eats away at things, at clothes, at furniture, at our wives, at our fear of war. […] And so, in order to return sensation to our limbs, in order to make us feel objects, to make a stone feel stony, man has been given the tool of art. The purpose of art, then, is to lead us to a knowledge of a thing through the organ of sight instead of recognition. By ‘enstranging’ objects and complicating form, the device of art makes perception long and ‘laborious.’ —Viktor Shklovsky, “Art as Device” (Theory of Prose pages 5–6)
Experimental chef Grant Achatz, speaking in an interview with Terry Gross on Fresh Air:
If you think about eating, you know, we do it two, three, four times a day since we’re born, basically. And the act of eating, the mechanics of eating, become very monotonous. So literally you’re either picking up a fork or a spoon, and you’re eating from a plate or a bowl, with the same motion every time. And so if we can break that monotony, then we get you to take notice of the moment, and now you’re thinking about the food, it’s making you feel a certain way. (8:50–9:22)
The entire interview is well worth listening to.
Greetings again after much too long a while. Since the last installment in this series, the new pornographers at Vivid have announced, written, shot, and released Batman XXX: A Porn Parody, so it’s well past time to look at the fourth and final book of The Dark Knight Returns, “The Dark Knight Falls”!
Unlike Books Two and Three, which each start a little while after their respective preceding chapters, Book Four picks up right where Book Three left off. The Joker has just died, his final act having been to frame Batman for his own death. Police Commissioner Yindel cordons her forces outside the Tunnel of Love, readying an assault. Meanwhile, Superman continues fighting in the “police action” in Corto Maltese…
Earlier today John pointed toward Nigel Beale’s cleverly-titled criticism of my post “Tiny Shocks: Uncovering the Reductive Plot of James Wood’s How Fiction Works.” I’m looking forward to Nigel’s longer criticism; in the meantime I thought I’d reply regarding the mistakes Wood makes in his readings of Viktor Shklovsky and William H. Gass, since Nigel asked specifically about them:
Does Wood ‘misunderstand’ Gass? Is his reading of Shklovsky ‘demonstrably wrong’? Are these ‘intellectual errors’ or are they mischievous ploys to argue (successfully I’d say) points which you just don’t agree with? Who’s being Ad hominem here?
(Nigel, I hope you don’t mind my calling you by your first name; since we’re Facebook friends now, and I hope you’ll call me Adam. It keeps things friendlier!)
And let me say that it’s certainly fair for Nigel to take issue with my calling Wood’s account “smug and small” etc. Those are critical words, granted. I stand by them, however, as fitting descriptions of Wood’s argument and the manner in which he makes it: Wood’s reading of fiction in How Fiction Works is reductive, and I believe that a critic of his stature is capable of far better. (He studied with Frank Kermode!)
OK, on to the formalists.
[Update: As if this post weren’t long enough, there’s now a Part 2.]
On January 22, I read Shya Scanlon’s post “The Dull King”; on January 25 I read his second post “Cover Your Tracks.” Both were about reading James Wood’s How Fiction Works. Before that I’d heard of James Wood but hadn’t read anything by him; I knew some people liked him and some didn’t like him. I myself had no opinion about the guy. Nor did I have any real plan to read How Fiction Works. But still I posted a couple of comments on Shya’s posts, and Shya wrote back, and I wrote back, and before I knew it I’d written a very long comment that I turned into my own post, “Uncover Your Tracks.”
Then I thought what the hell and trudged through the snow to Columbia College. That was a fun trip; the library elevators weren’t working, and a security guard had to escort me up to the fifth floor. It felt like the normal world had gotten broken, and something exciting was taking place. I took that as a sign that I was on the right track. I went home right away and read the book from cover to cover….