Hugh Kenner Hits a Home Run

Wouldn’t it take an outsider to aptly critique the American scene, the American people, the American culture? Hugh Kenner, a Canadian, did this at the end of a section devoted to Wallace Stevens and William Carlos Williams in his book A Homemade World: The American Modernist Writers. A book dedicated to Guy Davenport. A book on Donald Barthelme’s syllabus.

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Helen DeWitt’s “Cormac McCarthy & the Semi-Colon” is about the travails of punctuation. Yes, editors are often always trying to add commas.

The new great issue of The Quarterly Conversation has a review of William H. Gass’s Middle C by Brad Johnson and one of  Sam Lipsyte’s The Fun Parts by David Winters. David Winters’ review of Christine Schutt’s Prosperous Friends in the LA Review of Books is also well worth the click.

Canadian author Douglas Glover’s literary journal Numero Cinq is billed as “A warm place on a cruel web.” Jason Lucarelli’s piece “The Consecution of Gordon Lish: An Essay on Form and Influence” might be the most definitive piece on Lish.

There is a wonderful interview with Evan Lavender-Smith by Edwin Turner at Biblioklept. Lavender-Smith’s glorious From Old Notebooks was recently re-issued by Dzanc Books. I reviewed it at this site.

Big Other’s 50 Pillars, compiled

Me being me, I see vast amounts of data, and I want to analyze it! So here is something of a meta-list, compiled from all all the posts from 30 July. (Essentially, I made one big list, then saw who came up the most.)

Which authors, then, were most mentioned? Upon which literary pillars does Big Other rest?

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Fifty Gestures of Love, in honor of William Gass.

25 now, 25 to follow, with many thanks

1) In The Odyssey, there’s Penelope’s more intimate test of this stranger who claims to be her husband — after he’s gotten through the messy, public business of slaughtering all her suitors down in the castle hall.

2) Of course Penelope has enacted some significant gestures of love herself, during the course of her man’s wanderings, most especially the way she’s undone, every night, the shroud she’s been weaving every day, the funeral shroud for the former king, while meantime promising the suitors: just as soon as the shroud’s done…

3) But now this fellow claims to be the once and future king, and he’s proven pretty impressive, plus their son Telemachus accepts the story, the boy’s helped to cut all the pretenders to ribbons, and now the stranger stands in the bedroom, and so it’s time she too sprang a test on him. Continue reading

A Medley of Gass Interviews and His Influence

Over at the Reading William Gass website, curated by Stephen Schenkenberg, a video has been unearthed of Gass talking in Paris about five years ago. He reads from The Tunnel for a short time–then excitedly talks about the sentence. It’s a marvel.

There is a great new Bookworm interview with Gass about Life Sentences.

At Word Patriots, Mark Seinfelt interviewed Gass twice: once about his new book and once about Stanley Elkin. There are also three shows dedicated to Paul West.

Finally, my essay at The Kenyon Review–On Influence: Starting and Stopping Cracks–takes some lines of Gass as a starting point for a meditation on writing and art. The first paragraph:

Why not stand up straight for art? Rainer Maria Rilke’s older lover, Lou Andreas-Salomé, cared greatly about his relation to words and made him improve his handwriting, urging the poet to take control of everything in his life before communing more with the muse. Soon Rilke purchased a stand up desk to improve his circulation while he wrote poems—by changing his methods, he changed what the methods produced. This might speak to a few things about influence and who we are willing to listen to (Andreas-Salomé, also a former lover of Nietzsche, was a distinguished psychoanalyst and writer), but undoubtedly, art is at least as much physical as emotional.