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March 25, 2009

In Defense of Carter!

I'm sorry to have missed class! I hope the Carter discussion went well -- wow, what a prose stylist! Her sentences are gold. When I chatted with people they seemed frustrated with the apparent repetition of subject matter, and the "unradicalness" of her retellings of the fairy tales. But consider this: she clearly enjoys the deep, disturbing aesthetic of the fairy tale, and she wouldn't want to disrupt that, I think, with postmodern experimentation (although there is a bit of that; muted). What I like about her writing is that she stays true to the baroque machinations of the fairy tale, the laquered language, the assumptions of otherworldliness. What I think is so innovative about her approach is, in fact, that reverence for language itself as a fairy tale: an impossible and aestheticized system of rules where reality is heightened or even dismissed, and where pleasure (this is key; sheer pleasure and tittilation) dictates linguistic boundaries. The richness of her sentences are like meals: fettucine alfredo, chicken kiev, a salted avocado eaten whole. Has anyone read her novels?

March 23, 2009

The Company of Wolves

Can we please have a viewing party for this? Preferably a themed viewing party where everyone comes in wolf costume. The movie is based on Angela Carter's wolf stories and she co-wrote the screenplay. Plus, super duper special effects!

March 17, 2009

Wild Surmise

I don't want to say "I told you so," but I was re-reading _The Bloody Chamber_ when I came upon those two words, "wild surmise," which had also appeared in _Under the Volcano_ (anybody remember where?), and I thought: well, they--meaning "you," my students--can say that I warned you that this phrase, and more particularly this idea, would show up in our reading. Please do yourselves and me a favor and think seriously about why this idea/phrase/condition keeps turning up in our reading. It will take you into some interesting cognitive corridors.

And if you want a pop culture parallel, think about those moments in Spielberg's films when someone (often a child) looks at something (usually looks up) and sees something that he/she doesn't understand but which causes his/her jaw to drop open; the word for this (recently corrupted and co-opted by the Bush Administration) is "awe."

March 5, 2009

Under The Volcano-The movie

a under the volcano.jpg


Under the Volcano, the movie, was shot in 1984 by the great John Huston. Though I have yet to see this film, I have seen Huston's version of Joyce's The Dead, a film that is very faithful to Joyce's text. Reviews for Volcano say the film follows Lowry closely, though Charlie did mention in class that he thought there was a "problematic" nature to a part of the movie, if I remember correctly. The film received Academy Award nominations for Best Actor in a Leading Role (Albert Finney as the Consul). If anybody has a big TV, let's have a screening!

March 2, 2009

South American Fiction

When it comes to phantasmagoria, South American writers have been at it for decades. They haven't labored under quite the same tradition of empiricism that we have; they go off into derangement of the senses quite easily. If you really want your head immersed into a dream world whose prose is so thick and baroquely oxygen-deprived that you feel as if you're deep-sea diving, try some of the following: Clarise Lispector's _The Apple in the Dark_ (she was a Brazilian writer, originally from Russia, I believe). The book used to be available and probably still is from the University of Chicago Press in what my Portugese-reading friends tell me is a good translation. Then try José Donoso's _The Obscene Bird of Night_. Then anything by Alejo Carpentier, who was Cuban. My favorite of his is _Reasons of State_, a bit hard to get your hands on, but beautiful and funny. Garcia Marquez's _The Autumn of the Patriarch_ is brilliant, of course. Faulkner was a big influence on some of these people, Garcia Marquez in particular. There are many, many others.
Probably one of the best American practitioners of this sort of writing, whom I haven't assigned, is John Hawkes, who was Marilynne Robinson's teacher. Try to find a copy of his book _The Beetle Leg_; see if you're big enough to stand up to it. This stuff makes David Lynch look like a walk in the park.