About Adam Roberts
Posts by Adam Roberts
Friday, January 27, 2006
Here’s where I start. I am neither a French literature specialist, nor a student of Modernism; but I am strangely drawn to Proust. I’ve read his big novel three times now, and will certainly read it again. But the more I am drawn into its world, the more suspicious I become of myself. The more it matters to state the case contre Proust.
Picking up another novel after reading Proust almost always means being struck by the comparative coarseness of the writing, whoever the author may be; the coarseness, in fact, of the almost the whole of western literature. Whichever book it might be, it has not been worked through with the same extraordinary fineness and finesse of A La Recherche. Never was a book so well-milled, so polished, so fine-grained as this one. But this is not necessarily to be taken as a marker of Proust’s superiority over other writers. This coarseness we find in other writers is, in itself, something of which Proust was incapable. It functions as a kind of marker of Proust’s aesthetic limitations. You cannot eat a Faberge egg.Continue reading "Contra Proust"
Friday, January 13, 2006
A brief note on Moretti and Science Fiction
Towards the end of ‘Graphs’ Moretti touches briefly on SF: neither Detective Fiction nor SF, he says, are included on his chart ‘although both genres achieve their modern form about 1890 (Doyle, Wells) and undergo a major change in the 1920s, in step with the overall pattern.’ Nevertheless, he concedes, ‘their long duration seems to require a different approach.
Well, I’ve just published the result of several years work designed to argue the case that SF has enjoyed a longer duration even than Moretti is inclined to allow. Not that he takes an unusual position with regard to the genre. There are, in a nutshell, three main views as to when SF ‘began’: it began with Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein in 1818; it began with H G Wells Time Machine in 1895; it began with Hugo Gernsback’s magazine Amazing Stories in 1926, and Gernsback’s prosodically-hobbledehoy coinage ‘scientifiction’. Moretti is arguing, broadly, that novel genres have about a quarter-century lifespan, which, even if we chose the latest possible starting place as a launching point, does indeed give SF a ‘long duration’.Continue reading "A brief note on Moretti and Science Fiction"
Monday, January 09, 2006
Zizek loves him, Nabokov hated him
This is a guest post by occasional Valve commenter Adam Roberts. In addition to that sterling qualification, he is an English professor and SF author with a thumping great huge whopping history of science fiction that just came out. Here’s his home page. Adam will be with us to the tune of a half dozen posts or so. - the Management
Here’s a pendant to John H.’s reiterated thoughts on Zizek, not by way of going over yet again the sharply contested points raised on the comment thread there, but as a peg on which to hang a different question. Nabokov claimed that the phrase ‘Soviet Literature’ was a contradiction in terms: under the Soviet regime art was subordinated so wholly to the needs of propaganda that ‘art’ in the proper sense became impossible. That’s difficult to gainsay. I don’t suppose there are many followers of The Valve who would relish reading nothing but socialist-realist literature for the rest of their days, or wandering round art galleries populated solely by muscular socialist-realist sculptures and paintings of heroic miners and super-fecund farmgirls.
Maybe it’s not obvious what this has to do with the Holbonic Cryptonormative; but it does seem to me to relate directly to issues raised by that post, one of which was the extent of the good liberal’s anxiety about, say, Zizek’s politics. Zizek has a lot of time for Lenin. Does one have to be a Trillingite liberal to find that morally icky? Need one sacrifice one’s leftist principles, baby-and-bathwater, in order to note how complicit Lenin was with mass-murder?Continue reading "Zizek loves him, Nabokov hated him"