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* John Granger ("Hogwarts Professor") points out some ironies about Harold Bloom's views on those who read Harry Potter -- whoops, I should say those whose "eyes simply scan the page," since Bloom claims that it is impossible to read Harry Potter -- here.

* Ursula K. Le Guin takes on Slate (which printed the statement that "Michael Chabon has spent considerable energy trying to drag the decaying corpse of genre fiction out of the shallow grave where writers of serious literature abandoned it") and takes no prisoners here.

* There are two syndicated blogs I've recently discovered that I'd like to recommend. One is daily_dickinson, a blog for your daily dose of poetry by Emily Dickinson, and the other is bronteblog, a blog dedicated to the world of the Brontës.

The monster laid its squamous hand on her, and the ring branded her like a burning coal. Genre breathed its corpse-breath in her face, and she was lost.
- the great Ursula K. Le Guin


( 27 comments — Leave a comment )
Jul. 5th, 2007 12:45 pm (UTC)
Hmm, Harold Bloom... sounds vaguely familiar, but I can't quite figure out from where. Which is okay because I don't think my young sensitivity would survive another dose of him.

But then again, it might just be the HP fan in me. Everything is possible.
Jul. 5th, 2007 12:49 pm (UTC)
Oh, btw, this is manzanas_verdes posting from the other account. I haven't have my morning coffee yet...
Jul. 6th, 2007 02:38 pm (UTC)
Ha! Hi there. *waves* Harold Bloom's a Yale professor and literary critic. And whether it's Tolkien or Rowling or anything that has the faintest whiff of genre attached to it, he's against it, and sure it signals the end of Western civilization. ;)
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Jul. 6th, 2007 02:53 pm (UTC)
he argues there's no sublimated sex in poetry.

Ah, that's my crazy Harold.

It's his humility that wins me over. For example, when he says here "I cannot think of a major work I have not ingested." I have a sneaking suspicion that his definition of "major work" and mine might not match exactly.
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Jul. 6th, 2007 02:44 pm (UTC)
Mary Sue Bloom/Western Literary Canon=OTP! 4Ever!

Sorry. I couldn't help myself. Your analysis is just brilliant. More power to you.
Jul. 5th, 2007 01:26 pm (UTC)
ROTFL! I want to be Ursula Le Guin when I grow up! If only it wasn't already too late.

Still, given that I'm reading 'Whispers in the Darkness' at the moment, and going to a Medieval Baebes concert in Ely Cathedral on the 14th, it's not so bad being me :)
Jul. 5th, 2007 01:29 pm (UTC)
I know exactly what you mean about Le Guin! Isn't she the best?

That Ely Cathedral show should be amazing - I do hope you'll post a review afterwards, so I can live vicariously through you! I'd love to see them live. Have a fantastic time.
Jul. 5th, 2007 03:00 pm (UTC)
Oh Lord! 'The English are incorrigible, they have no minds at all.'

I apologize for inflicting my lack of brain on you, my dear child.


He's really upset we didn't like his book, isn't he?!

But yes, LeGuin effortlessly outclasses him in a way he probably doesn't have the wisdom to understand.

And I will definitely post a review! If there are souvenirs, would you like one?
Jul. 6th, 2007 10:27 pm (UTC)
But yes, LeGuin effortlessly outclasses him in a way he probably doesn't have the wisdom to understand.

Well said indeed!

If there are souvenirs, would you like one?

Oh, WOW! I would just love it! What a kind thing to ask. If there's a neat concert program or something souvenir-like from the concert, and it's easy for you, I would be most grateful. I can Paypal you the money for it (and shipping) or send funds however you like. Thanks a million!
Jul. 14th, 2007 10:55 pm (UTC)
I've just got back from the concert, and it was brilliant :) I'm afraid I went mad and bought you a tambourine which was signed by the band (well, I didn't know your size of T shirt or whether you already had all the albums). Could you let me know your address, and then I can send it along. My email is wulfwaru@gmail.com :)

Report on Monday, when I can get back to the computer for long enough :)
Jul. 15th, 2007 02:20 am (UTC)
Squeeeeeee! You are so incredibly kind. I'm emailing you right now - well, just as soon as I stop doing my happy dance. :) Thank you!!!!
Jul. 5th, 2007 02:43 pm (UTC)
OOOO that article by LeGuin is SCATHING!! Absolutely excellent.

Havent read Granger's piece yet - I have mixed feelings about Potter - I love JKRs imagination and world of Hogwarts. I love that she's taken "old dead dried things" aka classical mythology/history and breathed new life into it - my daughter thrilled to ancient Greek and Roman and Renaissance because of Harry Potter. BUT - I do wish an editor would either learn to see past the dollar signs or sit JKR down and say "...now let's talk about adverbs. As in NO MORE..." Her writing STYLE frustrates me to no end. I absolutely LOVED Goblet of Fire - I hadnt been that frightened for a character since reading LOTR..and then the subsequent books have been...well less than inspiring.

Oh well - good finds!! I enjoyed both of them!
Jul. 6th, 2007 02:59 pm (UTC)
SCATHING!! Absolutely excellent.

She really knows how to get her point across, doesn't she? :)

I understand what you mean about Rowling. I tend to think she's a brilliant storyteller and a rather poor writer. There's the adverb problem, and the comma splices, and don't get me started on the noun/pronoun agreement errors! What frustrates me about Bloom's attack on Rowling, however, is that it's largely based on his complete lack of appreciation for the genre in which she writes. He also dismisses Tolkien completely (and there was a master craftsman), and in his essays, when he offers up alternate works that are "great" (in comparison to those, like Tolkien's and Rowling's, he considers trash), he never names one that could be considered speculative fiction of any kind - fantasy, fairy story, science fiction, horror, etc. It seems intellectually dishonest to me, not to mention narrow-minded.

All that said, I completely agree with you about Rowling needing an editor who has the nerve to correct her usage errors and give her advice about style!
Jul. 5th, 2007 03:05 pm (UTC)
I agree with the commenter on the Harold Bloom article - how on earth did Bloom get it in his head that the first HP book is the best or that anyone thinks the first book is the best? Bloom is so clueless about and so far removed from popular culture that I think it's pointless for him to even comment on it. He just ends up sounding like some colonialist snob talking about the 'ignorant heathen natives' or something.

As for Le Guin, I appreciate what she was saying and she has a good point, but I wish she hadn't attacked (however midly) Chabon and his contemporaries. It's not their fault that critics talk about them the way they do (they 'serious literature' comment is very condescending), nor is it their fault that they're not genre writers. I was really annoyed by what she said about Cormac McCarthy b/c, no, he's not the first person to ever write about people on a post-apocalyptic journey to survive but he's one of the best to have done so. I thought The Road was exceedingly well-written, and it was the first book I've read in a long time that really freaked me out. And I think she's wrong to be annoyed that McCarthy isn't considered a scifi/horror author b/c that's not what he mainly writes. If he could ever be considered a genre writer, it would have to be as a writer of westerns. It's true that scifi, horror, and fantasy authors do not get the credit they deserve as the serious and talented writers that they are, but it's also true that authors outside of the genre have done some amazing stuff with it.
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Jul. 5th, 2007 05:23 pm (UTC)
no offense taken - sorry for the wordy response ;)
I agree with you and LeGuin that critics, in particular, and the book industry, in general, has been incredibly dismissive of what they call 'genre' authors. Many of the questions you raised about who gets to categorize what and how have come up in my studies about 'canon' literature and 'minority' literature, as well. There is a literary hierarchy that needs to be challenged, and I don't begrudge LeGuin for challenging it. Slate did something stupid by acting like Chabon is the savior of science fiction even though (a) scifi doesn't need saving and (b) Chabon's best works are his non-scifi ones. I certainly goofed by using the terms 'serious' and 'genre' as if they are two separate things, so I understand why you are addressing that. I do think there needs to be better terminology for non-genre books w/o making them sound like they are automatically superior to anything else.

As a former bookstore employee, I can attest that plenty of 'non-genre' books have tons of scifi, fantasy, romance, horror, mystery, history, etc. elements and could be categorized as such. My bookstore used the term 'general fiction,' though, which is, I think, better, and we used it for anything that was either not genre-specific (like Nick Hornby novels) or covered multiple genres (like Jonathan Strange). Where we categorized books also depended on where customers expected them to be. Still, categories can be harmful, and we do need to think about them more critically. As a graphic novel fan, I've been very frustrated by customers who refer to non-comics as 'real books' and refuse to have anything to do with graphic novels & comics no matter how highly recommended they are.

I do think that LeGuin did a good job of mocking Slate's obnoxious wording in regards to Chabon, but I also felt that some of her ire was directed at particular authors that aren't promoting this type of literary elitism rather than at the authors and critics who are. If she had mentioned writers who are notorious for acting like they are above certain genres even though they write within those genres, like Atwood or the very-talented-but-very-self-absorbed Dave Eggars instead of the pretty affable Chabon and the rather aloof-and-apathetic McCarthy, I would've better understood her point.
Jul. 6th, 2007 03:18 pm (UTC)
Re: no offense taken - sorry for the wordy response ;)
As a graphic novel fan, I've been very frustrated by customers who refer to non-comics as 'real books' and refuse to have anything to do with graphic novels & comics no matter how highly recommended they are.

Yes! That sounds all too familiar, I'm sorry to say.

Thanks so much for your insightful reponse! Good point about Dave Eggars.
Jul. 6th, 2007 03:14 pm (UTC)
Great points! And thanks for the reminder about Elgin, who was more Atwood than Atwood before Atwood was cool. ;)

As a student in a class I was being a grad assistant for once said of Toni Morrison's Beloved: "How did a ghost story win the Nobel prize?"

Oh wow.

Jul. 6th, 2007 04:40 pm (UTC)
You and ithiliana have both mentioned authors and books that are going on my to-read list. Thanks!
Jul. 6th, 2007 03:06 pm (UTC)
He just ends up sounding like some colonialist snob talking about the 'ignorant heathen natives' or something.

Well said indeed. And I couldn't agree more: I know of no one who still considers the first HP book to be the best. To whom is Bloom talking, anyway? (Besides himself, of course.)

I understand what you mean about LeGuin's article. I have nothing against McCarthy or his book, but I have been appalled and horrified when reading reviews of it, to see that very few critics appreciate the debt The Road owes to great - and I mean that in every sense of the word - books from A Canticle for Leibowitz all the way back to Mary Shelley's The Last Man. He may not be a genre writer, but this particular novel is part of a literary tradition well over a century old (and arguably far older), and many of the critics act as if he created it out of thin air, since the tradition itself is tainted with the scent of genre. As you said, that's not McCarthy's fault, but the critics'. I haven't read anything by McCarthy that suggests he has, as Margaret Atwood has, said essentially, "I don't write SF, of course; I write literature." *rolls eyes* All that's to say that I understand LeGuin's anger, but I understand your point about its proper target, as well.
Jul. 6th, 2007 04:37 pm (UTC)
I didn't realize just how many critics and scholars were acting like McCarthy (or Chabon or whoever) was inventing (let alone reintenting) these stories. It's very absurd to me b/c, as neat as it is to see someone do something entirely new, I think it's interesting and fun to see how an author treats a well-worn subject or how his works might relate to previous ones in a particular genre. I like looking for those connections, but I guess most critics don't. I'm really upset over how obnoxious Atwood is about science fiction b/c a lot of 'great' and 'canonical' literature consists of it (and, y'know, pretty much any other genre imaginable!). The distopian novel, in particular, has gotten a lot of mileage and has worked really well for authors of all types in trying to make any sort of political point.
Jul. 5th, 2007 05:47 pm (UTC)
bwah! Take that you mainstream stuffed shirts! Ursula LeGuin needs a statue errected somewhere. My backyard will do - and I will light incense and chant ohm and hope for the day I have one tenth that woman's brilliance and a bit of her Chutzpah, too.

I'm sure John Granger would join me.

Jul. 6th, 2007 03:08 pm (UTC)
I would join you too. And bring the candles. :)
Jul. 6th, 2007 12:28 am (UTC)
Any sign of your Magic Goblets???
Jul. 6th, 2007 03:09 pm (UTC)
They're here! And they're beautiful!!! Thank you!
( 27 comments — Leave a comment )

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