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Title Excerpt Author Date Total Comments Recent Comment
The Valve - Closed For Renovation It’s probably past time I made such an announcement. Not that there’s been anything wrong with what Bill B. has been up to on his own lonesome for some time hereabouts. But the Valve was never intended to be Bill Benzon’s personal blog. Best he relocate to his own digs if… John Holbo 03/18/12 1 03/19/12
Testing Oh frabjous joy! Holbo makes a post! No, don’t worry. Nothing substantive. I’m just testing the software. Apparently some of you are unable to see the page. Let’s see whether a post can indeed be made. John Holbo 03/25/10 4 03/25/10
How Heideggerian Are You? You know what? It wouldn’t kill me to post at the Valve every year or so. I could, just for example, take time out of my busy schedule ... (it really is busy, my schedule.) But I do find that Crooked Timber keeps me busy, and I’m bizarrely averse to cross-posting.… John Holbo 11/10/09 19 06/23/10
Hey Kids! Free Plato Book! And you can help me make it better! Yes, it is true! Visit the official book site. You can view the whole thing via, which has a very nice Flash-based reader: minimal and elegant but full-featured. And/or download the PDF for offline reading. Want to see a neat trick? I can embed the book, like so. Then you… John Holbo 06/01/09 4 07/01/09
Graphs, Maps, Trees and Breeding I’m going to write my response to Jenny Davidson’s Breeding as a kind of post-script to our Moretti event of yore. (Which I’m supposed to be turning into an actual book if life ever stops getting in the way. Troubles, troubles.) Anyway, let’s say the following is a post-script to this… John Holbo 05/27/09 8 03/14/10
Academic Respectability, Comics and Criticism Our Scott K. complains about Doug Wolk’s Reading Comics: How Graphic Novels Work and What They Mean [amazon]: “Every reference I catch—about half of the ones Wolk drops—complements his argument; however, the way you wear your erudition lightly on the web differs from how you do it in print.  The book’s… John Holbo 04/16/09 8 04/17/09
Squid and Owl Where, oh where have I been these past several months? When a man gets to be around 40 - maybe a bit older - he starts to look back on life and wonder: what thing have I done for which I will be remembered? The next thing he does is start… John Holbo 04/13/09 3 06/17/09
Pre-Golden Age SF: The Super-est Supermen My friend Josh Glenn has a great post up about some half-forgotten (and/or totally forgotten) early 20th Century SF. (I’m on vacation, with intermittent internet, so I may not be quick to add to comments.) John Holbo 02/24/09 1 02/25/09
Catholic and Protestant Imaginations and SF I’m preparing to teach six weeks of Philosophy and Film. I focus on science fiction, so I’m reviewing a stack of critical writings on SF. I’m taking another look at The History of Science Fiction, by one Adam Roberts, which I’ve read before ... and I suddenly realize that I don’t… John Holbo 02/17/09 24 02/25/09
Was Lenin A Utilitarian? Well, the Zizek thread was invigorating, eh? Let’s talk about something related but distinct. One thing that has come up repeatedly in these threads is the allegation that it is obviously absurd for me to label Lenin a utilitarian. Or rather: to it is absurd for me to characterize the philosophy… John Holbo 01/28/09 31 02/12/09
Now who the hell wrote that story about …. I’m half-remembering an old SF story, which I’m half-remembering was even discussed here at the Valve - or was it over at CT? - about a scientist who builds what is basically a machine for interpreting all of literature. The joke being that this machine-product interpretation isn’t ultimately interpretable - surveyable… John Holbo 01/18/09 18 01/31/09
Anticipatory Retrospective and Presentism Now: Two Papers I’ve Published Of Late Where have I been? Why haven’t I been posting? I don’t really know! (Whew. That awkwardness is clean out of the way.) In the last few months I’ve gotten two pieces through the publication pipes that (I think) deserve discussion together. Unfortunately, they aren’t readily web-accessible. One is a chapter in… John Holbo 01/15/09 204 03/12/09
Fear and Trembling and the Incarnation Adam K. and I have been having a good old-fashioned Zizek brawl in comments. As Adam R. notes:"Ah, just like old times.” But one of the fun things about Zizek brawls is learning stuff about Kierkegaard. So let’s reflect on Fear and Trembling. Adam K. doubts my claim that Kierkegaard’s concept… John Holbo 12/02/08 20 12/05/08
JSTOR for books BoingBoing links to a Safari Books Online special offer: pick a free book for a month , plus 10% off a subscription to the full version of the service. Looks good. In the basic package, Safari gives you generous (not total, unless you pay more) access to a truly vast range… John Holbo 10/23/08 6 09/13/09
More Publishing and Perishing There’s a fascinating article in New York Magazine about the publishing crisis (not in academia this time - just the plain old commercial publishing crisis). It’s fascinating in part because it sounds so awful that I can’t imagine how the whole industry stays on its feet a whole week. (So obviously… John Holbo 09/22/08 16 09/24/08
Bob Stein’s ‘unified field theory of publishing in the networked era’ Interesting post at if:book. Some discussion of the possibilities (you - being a new media-savvy blog reader - could probably fill in many of details yourself off the cuff). Then this thought: Hmmm. On the surface that sounds a lot like a Wikipedia article, in the sense that it’s always in… John Holbo 09/15/08 1 10/01/09
The Journey Prefaced Sorry for being late to the party - The Journey Abandoned event, that is. Also, sorry for being absent from the Valve of late. But here I am. I was very excited and eager to read Trilling’s abandoned, unfinished novel. Well, truthfully, I did worry that those adjectives might not be… John Holbo 09/08/08 1 09/11/08
Ted Clayton on “Reading Comics” This is Ted Clayton’s contribution to our “Reading Comics” Event. Clayton is the proud winner of a free copy of Wolk’s book, because he sent me an email in response to my Crooked Timber post on the subject. Other than that, I don’t know a lot about the guy. So let… John Holbo 08/05/08 1 08/14/08
Ian Gordon on Reading Comics This is Ian Gordon’s contribution to our Reading Comics event. Ian is a colleague of mine at the National University of Singapore - he’s in the history department. He is the author of Comic Strips and Consumer Culture (2002) and, more recently, editor of Film and Comic Books (2007). He’s working… John Holbo 08/03/08 1 08/03/08
Kip Manley’s Contribution Is Up: Let Comics Be Comics Kip Manley’s take on new-minted Eisner-winner Wolk is here: Much as any good fencer has studied his Agrippa, Douglas Wolk has read his Delany ... And so it goes. UPDATE: OK, on second thought, this is not the right time to be coy. Kip has written a great essay! Go read… John Holbo 07/28/08 3 07/29/08
Doug Wolk Wins! He just won an Eisner for Best Book. Tor (that’s the link) has a brief interview with him. John Holbo 07/27/08 0
Jim Henley on Some of Origins of Marvel (and Other Comics) Jim Henley’s contribution to our Doug Wolk event is up. He writes up a nice, thumbnail history, aiming to debunk a certain ‘myth of the fall’: Once upon a time, the comic-book industry offered a stupefying variety of material. From the late 1930s through the late 1960s you could buy monster… John Holbo 07/25/08 0
Jason Grote: Thoughts On Douglas Wolks’ “Reading Comics” Jason Grote (read about Jason’s many accomplishments here) has his contribution up. An excerpt: Anyone able to get on the internet and read this should have ample familiarity with fan culture (as it is the internet, increasingly), but here’s a brief primer: around the 1960s and 70s, subcultures surrounding comics, science… John Holbo 07/24/08 0
Reading Wordless Books Here’s a postscript of sorts to my ‘is comics a language?’ post. I just settled down to read a new book, Wordless Books, the Original Graphic Novels, by David A. Benonä (with introduction by Peter Kuper). It’s a handsome volume, 11 chapters, most of them devoted to individual author/artists - eight… John Holbo 07/12/08 19 07/18/08
Katherine Farmar’s contribution to our “Reading Comics” event: Belgian Style Waffles? Her post is up here. She likes the book but makes one criticism. Wolk’s exclusive focus on American comics - while justified - risks missing things one sees if one steps back to take in non-American comics styles and forms. What do I think of this? In a sense criticisms of… John Holbo 07/09/08 9 07/11/08
Reading Comics: First Round Round-Up Tim Burke has his post up. And Kip Manley does, too. John Holbo 07/07/08 2 07/09/08
Let the Reading Comics Readings Begin! Our Doug Wolk Reading Comics book event is now officially open. I know that Tim Burke has something lined up and ready to go. And Lawrence White has something as well. So I’m going to let them start things off - either today or tomorrow. We have a lot of participants… John Holbo 07/07/08 1 07/07/08
Reading Comics I’m organizing a book event for Doug Wolk’s Reading Comics [amazon], which is now out in paperback. The event will be nominally hosted here. I got to know Doug on the strength of mocking him with my masterful New Skrullicism post of yore. Then I read this great book of his,… John Holbo 07/02/08 3 07/03/08
Locus Winners Some good reads. The Locus Award winners have been announced. Michael Chabon won for Yiddish Policemen’s Union. I thought it was ok - fun - a bit of a disappointment after Kavalier and Clay. What did you think? OK, I’ll write a short review to finish this post out. Now, on… John Holbo 06/25/08 0
Ian Hunter, “Talking About My Generation” I owe a follow-up to my Jameson post. Some discussion of the Ian Hunter response to Jameson’s piece. This is it - at least a stab at it. The Jameson/Hunter exchange, a response to an earlier Hunter essay, is to be found in Critical Inquiry 34 (Spring 2008), for those with… John Holbo 06/18/08 16 06/25/08
Jameson On Hunter: How Not to Criticize the Historicization of Theory I’m reading a Critical Inquiry critical exchange between Ian Hunter and Frederic Jameson - a response to Hunter’s “History of Theory” piece from CI in 2006. Here’s an old post in which Sean McCann discussed it. I did, too, somewhere or other. And this Long Sunday thread sure got all hot… John Holbo 06/14/08 45 06/16/08
Percy Gloom and Hieronymus B. I haven’t been doing enough comics blogging. But I just read a couple titles that seem to go together: Percy Gloom [amazon], by Cathy Malkasian. You can visit the book site here.  Not too much there. ... And Hieronymus B., by Ulf K. [amazon]. Top Shelf has a generous preview. (I… John Holbo 05/16/08 0
French Theory I’m reading French Theory, by Francois Cusset, freshly translated by an old grad school friend of mine, Jeff Fort. Who has evidently landed on his feet as a UC Davis French prof. Nice work, Jeff! It’s been given one of those very American subtitles characteristic of commodity histories. (’how the smelt… John Holbo 05/16/08 32 05/27/08
Talking Pathetic Fallacy Blues, a.k.a. Gary And here I was, so sure Lawrence’s post would be about that scene in Willingham’s Jack of Fables in which Jack meets the Pathetic Fallacy, a morose, balding entity capable of bringing things to anthropomorphic life - who wants to be known as ‘Gary’, or possibly ‘Lance’. John Holbo 05/08/08 4 05/21/08
I Remember The Way That You Smiled Y’know, they just down make callow, ironic folk-hop for 20-something white hipsters like they used to. At least that’s one theory. From a Pitchfork review of the Deluxe reissue of Beck’s Odelay: From the nervy opening chords of “Devil’s Haircut” (based on the garage-rock classic “I Can Only Give You Everything")… John Holbo 05/04/08 4 05/04/08
Edward Champion on Sven Birkerts and the Frightening Fitzroya Link. John Holbo 04/28/08 6 04/29/08
The End of Argument This is a follow up to last week’s Against Argument post - in which I suggest that humanists, perhaps especially in literary studies, tend to deploy a somewhat misleading rhetoric of rigorous argumentation, when what they are doing would be better described in other terms. Rohan Maitzen provided a passage from… John Holbo 04/25/08 25 04/28/08
Against Argument? Stephen Burt has an interesting post at the Columbia UP blog: “Against Argument”. The academy thrives on argument, at least in the traditional humanities: arguments get us noticed. Travel guides and scientific discoveries may both sell books, but to get attention within the realms of the arts and the humanities now,… John Holbo 04/18/08 62 04/22/08
Who wrote the Ur-Foghorn; or, I hated to tell Henery falsehoods about chickens, but … Worrying about the Ur-Hamlet is all well and good. (To be or not to be. Be, that is.) But this should not distract us from other, equally essential genealogical researches. ... It is at this early point in the Foghorn saga that even Bob McKimson himself falls victim to the vagaries… John Holbo 04/11/08 6 02/13/11
How to read things so easy to read that you don’t even need to be able to read to read them Top Shelf comics - fine purveyors of sequential sequence image stories - has good new stuff. There’s a new Owly book. I’ve praised those before. My daughter, Zoë, delivered up a classic deadpan review: "These books are good because even kids who can’t read can read them." True. Basically, they are… John Holbo 03/28/08 3 03/29/08
If he must sing, we’ll teach him to him sing like WE want him to Pardon the light blogging. Life is complicated. A little bird sent an email, suggesting I might be interested in ESC: English Studies in Canada Volume 32, Issue 2-3, June/September 2006. So I prove to be. The forum title: “Why do I have to write like that?” Hard to hate on that.… John Holbo 03/25/08 17 03/31/08
The Brick Moon Tonight’s selection goes with last night’s. Late 1860’s US SF. Ergo, for fun, another Lulu edition."No," said Q. bravely, "at the least it must be very substantial. It must stand fire well, very well. Iron will not answer. It must be brick; we must have a Brick Moon."Along with The Epic… John Holbo 03/18/08 2 03/22/08
The Huge Hunter or, The Steam Man of the Prairies I’ve been making books. I need your help. (Do you like my cover design?) Allow me to quote editorial matter from my new edition (which you can download for free in a moment, keep your pants on.)Edward Sylvester Ellis (1840-1916) was an educator and journalist, best known for his prolific authorship… John Holbo 03/17/08 9 10/16/09
Mervyn Peake: The Man and His Art I was looking for something else on the library shelf and suddenly our eyes met, from across an empty aisle. Then I was clutching in my arms the most wonderful book in the world: Mervyn Peake: The Man and His Art [amazon] The text is fascinating. I didn’t know Peake was… John Holbo 02/20/08 16 10/15/09
Emulsify Yourself I’m organizing my files - really I’ve got quite a lot of this stuff. I think this one is pretty great (click for larger): The comma between ‘without’ and ‘energy’ is what makes it work for me. John Holbo 02/19/08 2 02/19/08
Comics and Canonicity The best work of literary criticism I’ve read this year is Douglas Wolk’s Reading Comics [amazon]. (Obviously I’m biased in favor of the subject matter. But it’s just plain good literary criticism.) This post is an updated version of something I posted in a private forum, where it garnered lively responses… John Holbo 02/14/08 15 02/25/08
Stop Driving Us Crazy! (Intellects Cool & etc. edition) Sorry for light blogging. I’m going through a non-verbal period. Fortunately, I stocked up on picture books in the event of such an eventuality. Example: Cartoon Modern [amazon], by Amid Amidi, who blogs at Cartoon Brew. It’s lovely, and has sent me scurrying off in satisfactory directions. Example: YouTube has “Stop… John Holbo 02/12/08 2 02/13/08
Mann and Little Man As Florizel says, in A Winter’s Tale: “These your unusual weeds to each part of you/Do give a life: no shepherdess, but Flora ...” etc. etc. In other words, besides all that Mixtec stuff, I’ve also been enjoying the unusual weeds sprouting up in The Mischievous Art of Jim Flora [amazon].… John Holbo 02/01/08 1 02/05/08
Codex Nuttall: Hooked On Boustrophedonics! I’ve been browsing - rereading would, I guess be too strong a word - my dear old Dover edition of the The Codex Nuttall. I mention this because I recently found a fine site. A German publisher that has brought out a line of facsimiles of ancient Mesoamerican ‘codices’ has made… John Holbo 01/30/08 8 01/31/08
Black Dossier, Top Ten, Stepmother Finished Alan Moore’s The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: The Black Dossier [amazon]. Jonathan asked what I think is going on at the end. Well, some sort of Prospero-Dionysus in 3-D thing. Clearly. Possibly this page contains some hints and/or spoilers. Here’s an interview with Moore: The planet of the imagination is… John Holbo 01/18/08 4 01/20/08
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