Wednesday, October 06, 2010


Saw this on HTML Giant, Walker and Foer and Barthelme and other people.

I hate all these writers.


"What I find painters know is that kind of exploration of the qualitative relational possibilities of color, shape, and all of the things can be constructed with them. if, as I suspect you’re suggesting, they might know something else about the world, this frequently happens if they have been observant about the world, but I don’t think it’s necessary."

That doesn't even mean anything.

"In the New Republic, Dale Peck recently said you were upholding the high literary postmodern tradition, a tradition Peck claimed was bankrupt."

Dale Peck said something in the new republic, what does that even mean to call a tradition bankrupt?


"Middlesex is a postmodern book in many ways, but it is also very old-fashioned."

This is fucking science, this is literature.

"How do you move it forward?"

by being lame.

"What bothers me is the question the young lady asked you yesterday, that is, why do you write novels? And I’m hard put to imagine what kind of motivation you would have other than the fact that in writing you must be converging on some approximation of the way things are or the way you think things are, either in the realm of ideas or in the realm of the way things are in The Heart of the Heart of the Country or the heart of the heart of the American consciousness. It’s hard for me to imagine any novelist not being motivated by some desire to approach some kind of truth or what he thinks to be the truth. If I didn’t think that I don’t think I’d bother to set pen to paper. I can’t imagine what I would be doing if I wasn’t doing that."

This makes my dick hurt.

I don't understand this

All this fucking theory

Barthelme's books sold because he had funny sex shit in his books. Percy wrote like one book that no one reads anymore and Foer writes topical bullshit.

See the thing is this:

There is really no such thing as literary theory.

because a theory is a system.

A theory is like a machine.

That puts out at least similar results every time.

But great literature usually comes from random personal experience or another's personal experience or you just think of a nice story to tell.

Personal experience would be like On the Road or The Sun Also Rises
Other people's would be like Tale of Two Cities or Uncle Tom's Cabin
Nice story: The Trial or The Brothers Karamazov.

Pretty generalized here

The only way literary theory could really exist

is if it was applied at least 95% of the time and it had the same results.

The results could be a low selling book or a high selling book, but the results should be similar.

But the problem is that saying something like, "Joyce wrote lines in different languages to get to the best line or something"

That implies we should all do that or something.

I have no idea.

but that is the beautiful thing about a novelist

You are allowed to make things up

You are like a spiritual leader or something

pulling shit out of your ass is like sexy.

You can't make a theory out of it

There isn't any

No theory

Stop it

Please fucking stop it


Hayden Derk said...

You're right.
Fucking dead-on.

Literary theory is less real than fairies.

curt said...


adam said...

I LOL'd.

Reynard said...

okay, but to be clear i don't much like foer or eugenides. i was making fun of them. two of the tags are 'jefferey eugenides seems to have misunderstood the point of this symposium' & 'william gass really makes an ass of himself sometimes'

it's true i like thinking on shit, so literary theory is something i miss. (garbage is most of it but when it craps a neat thought i feel the garbage was worth sifting through - i think that way about a lot of things, music for instance.) which is the thing really, literary theory is already dead. if anything, that post is a requiem for a dream that hardly got dreamt at all, which is of course postmodernism, which (to clarify) i don't think was ever even a thing because there are books that already did it long before it had a name.

daniel bailey said...

THANK FUCKING GOD. noah, i need you in my grad-level lit class. you would make me hate it less.

also, hey reynard! i still think you are awesome!

adam said...

Serious post is serious.

I think about theories of literature as a machine, sort of, but not just one machine; more as a bunch of different tiny machines, all based off of older designs to some degree, with different prescribed or described steps in each case. No one machine builds a true product every single time, and anyone who worships a certain machine or collection of machines, or rejects them all, isn't really concerned with trying to figure out how anything works.

When you get a bunch of creative writers together who don't actually think about theory but who want to be remembered as being representative of a certain "type" of literature, I think you have a bunch of writers who are insecure about what they wrote, and are afraid that no one will remember them unless they try very hard to seem serious.

I think understanding different literary theories can be helpful for writers, especially psychoanalytic theory and Longinus' writings on the sublime, because they deal with aspects of readers that will always be present to some degree, but I know not everyone's going to be motivated by exactly the same unconscious conflicts or give all the same symbols equal weight.

Bottom line: theory's like my cell phone. It makes some things easier, but I can't do everything with it no matter how expensive it is - a cell phone can't, for example, have sex with me.

maya said...

thank you

Anonymous said...

that guy seems to be making any assumption that if you are creating literature then you somehow have some shared outlook with others who are 'creating literature' and that seems reasonable to assume

Anonymous said...

Postmodernism is though a very definite trajectory in lit that marks the end of the quest for meaning. Quest for meaning is very uncool, you might be accused of (gasp) religion or sentimentality or something, and paradoxically, the interior religion of postmodernism makes it a cardinal sin to be uncool, so postmodernism displays life and the individual only as a continuous irredeemable wreck, one dimensionally pursuing his/her interests, yeah baby, it’s all so.. plasticized

Giles Ruffer said...

"pulling shit out of your ass is like sexy."

best line.

Adam R said...

I'm pretty sure that literary theory is meant to refer to the way readers understand writing, not how or why writers make their stories.


Saw this in the NY Times today:

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