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Past Valve Book Events

cover of the book Theory's Empire

Event Archive

cover of the book The Literary Wittgenstein

Event Archive

cover of the book Graphs, Maps, Trees

Event Archive

cover of the book How Novels Think

Event Archive

cover of the book The Trouble With Diversity

Event Archive

cover of the book What's Liberal About the Liberal Arts?

Event Archive

cover of the book The Novel of Purpose

Event Archive

The Valve - Closed For Renovation

Happy Trails to You

What’s an Encyclopedia These Days?

Encyclopedia Britannica to Shut Down Print Operations

Intimate Enemies: What’s Opera, Doc?

Alphonso Lingis talks of various things, cameras and photos among them

Feynmann, John von Neumann, and Mental Models

Support Michael Sporn’s Film about Edgar Allen Poe

Philosophy, Ontics or Toothpaste for the Mind

Nazi Rules for Regulating Funk ‘n Freedom

The Early History of Modern Computing: A Brief Chronology

Computing Encounters Being, an Addendum

On the Origin of Objects (towards a philosophy of computation)

Symposium on Graeber’s Debt

The Nightmare of Digital Film Preservation

Richard Petti on Occupy Wall Street: America HAS a Ruling Class

Bill Benzon on Whatwhatwhatwhatwhatwhatwhat?

Nick J. on The Valve - Closed For Renovation

Bill Benzon on Encyclopedia Britannica to Shut Down Print Operations

Norma on Encyclopedia Britannica to Shut Down Print Operations

Bill Benzon on What’s an Object, Metaphysically Speaking?

john balwit on What’s an Object, Metaphysically Speaking?

William Ray on That Shakespeare Thing

Bill Benzon on That Shakespeare Thing

William Ray on That Shakespeare Thing

JoseAngel on That Shakespeare Thing

Bill Benzon on Objects and Graeber's Debt

Bill Benzon on A Dirty Dozen Sneaking up on the Apocalypse

JoseAngel on A Dirty Dozen Sneaking up on the Apocalypse

JoseAngel on Objects and Graeber's Debt

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Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Worlds of Literature

Posted by Aaron Bady on 02/25/09 at 09:50 PM

From now on, I’m going to post a weekly round-up of links which may be of interest to the larger community of literary types, or whoever it is that reads the Valve. That’s you, right? So let me know if you see anything you think I should include.

The great Sudanese writer, Tayeb Salih, passed away late last Tuesday. He’s best known for his 1966 novel Season of Migration to the North, which Edward Said called “among the six finest novels to be written in modern Arabic literature.” I want to know what the other five on that list were; it’s a remarkable novel, and one that only gets better and more interesting with re-readings. Obituaries in the New York Times, the Guardian, and the Sudan Tribune. Mustapha Marrouchi writes a more personal remembrance in Arab Comment and in a lovely memorial, the editors of AllAfrica hope that Tayeb Salih went “with a heart full of song and a face awash with a huge smile.”

Was Dorothy Wordsworth “one of the casualties of 19th-century femininity” or “the most distinguished of English prose writers who never wrote a line for the general public”? In the New York Times, “A Brother’s Keeper: The Other Wordsworth,” Dwight Garner reviews Frances Wilson’s The Ballad of Dorothy Wordsworth: A Life.

Janet Maslin, “What Was With the Peacocks and the Gothic Fiction?" reviews Brad Gooch’s Flannery: A Life of Flannery O’Connor, noting that “this mystical, ornery, ardently admired Southern writer” has been long overdue for a major new biography like this one.

In “The myths of Gabriel García Márquez,” Philip Swanson reviews Gerald Martin’s Gabriel García Márquez: A Life, the culmination of seventeen years of research which he predicts will be the authoritative work on what he calls the Nobel Prize winning novelist. Swanson is the author of Latin American Fiction: A short introduction, so presumably he knows what he’s talking about, but I’d love to know on what basis he judges Garcia-Marquez to be “Latin America’s perhaps only truly global writer.”

In the Sunday Times, “Salman’s Perfect Safe House,” Geoffrey Robertson remembers hiding Salman Rushdie in his home, and how it “brought many of his left-wing friends into a closer and warmer contact with officers of Special Branch than they would have ever thought likely or even healthy.”

Claudia Roth Pierpont’s “Another Country,” in The New Yorker, explores how James Baldwin made Istanbul what she calls his “second or third not-quite-home,” during a period she also notes to have been “inescapably Baldwin’s American decade.” The essay is essentially a very long review of Magdalena J. Zaborowska’s new book, James Baldwin’s Turkish Decade.

In the Times Literary Supplement, “Amos Oz and Reverie“ Anthony Cummins reviews Amos Oz’s new novel, Rhyming Life and Death, which Oz has called a challenge to the reader who would rather be “handed a prepared dish” than be “invited into the kitchen.” Cummins notes that such “solemn metafictional musing rarely feels like anything more than ballast for the breezy draughtsmanship of the character sketches,” and wonders in the end whether “the novel may in the end be too slight to survive its own scrutiny.”


Rhetoric and impaled bankers: a revolutionary new trolley-car paradigm, together with an introduction to problematology. 600 words.

By John Emerson on 02/26/09 at 10:48 AM | Permanent link to this comment

Aaron, I normally like and comment on your posts here, but I don’t really think that a weekly series like this is a good idea.  I suppose that any content could be considered to be a good idea, and if people don’t like it, they don’t have to read it.  But I think that content tends to change the nature of a space.  There are a lot of lit-blogs that are largely links of this sort, and I’d rather not see the Valve go in that direction.  The more that one directs people to essayists and reviewers writing somewhere, the more the dialogic aspect of response to someone actually writing for readers here is lost.

By on 02/26/09 at 12:21 PM | Permanent link to this comment

Hmm. I guess I don’t agree, though I see your point, up to a point. What lit blogs are you thinking of? And I’m not sure the dialogic aspect gets lost if one post a week is primarily a round up of links, especially if (as I hope to do when I have more time and energy) I try to engage a little more with the substance of the articles themselves.

There’s also some precedent; Bill has posted a lot of useful links and Scott used to do something of the kind, as here for example:


By on 02/26/09 at 09:08 PM | Permanent link to this comment

It’s the kind of thing that I associate with The Elegant Variation and other similar lit-blogs.  A quick scroll down his blog shows links to a Tayeb Saleh obit, a Rushdie-hiding link ("Is it just us, or have there been an awful lot of “How [SO-AND-SO] Hid Rushdie After the Fatwa” pieces these days.  (Ok, there have been two, it’s just us.)"), etc.

There’s nothing wrong with that, but it’s a different kind of thing then what I (I can only speak for myself) read the Valve for.  The issue came up in the n+1 kerfluffle a while back.  n+1 generalized to lit-bloggers as a whole, I thought improperly, because they seemed to leave out half of them.  There was the “They could have posted 5,000 word critiques of their favorite books and records” sentence—as if the adjective Holbonic hadn’t come up for such situations.

Clearly, you can post whatever you want; you don’t need precedent or anything.  But as long as I’m opining, I’ll mention that I don’t like Bill’s quick-hit link posts either, which I’ve mentioned to him in the past—they tend to go either (apparently) ignored, or some red meat is thrown out with little surrounding analysis and they end up like this.

By on 02/26/09 at 10:47 PM | Permanent link to this comment

I don’t think the occasional Boing-Boing type of a list of links that you think are interesting can hurt. Bill Benzon’s short posts reflects his own interests and if for every ten I come across a gem, it’s worth it for me to check in to The Valve.

I think the writer should lists the links that they find interesting rather than thinking about the general reader or some sort of comprehensive lit week-in-review.

By Christopher Hellstrom on 02/26/09 at 11:27 PM | Permanent link to this comment

Also: I don’t think Valve posts should be judged solely for the feedback. One recent example is John Holbo’s link to the io9 Pre-Golden Age SF section. That was something I ate up, tagged, and I now subscribe to the i09 feed.  With that sort of thing I just did not want to say “that’s cool”

And I am embarrassed to admit that Bill’s “Obama’s Elf” link was the funniest thing I’ve seen in a long time.

By Christopher Hellstrom on 02/26/09 at 11:43 PM | Permanent link to this comment

Not too long ago I read “Season of Migration to the North” in a class taught by the lovely, most excellent Arab-American novelist Diana Abu-Jabar. In the novel the young protagonist has some kind of relationship with one Mrs. Robinson, a missionary lady considerably older than himself. I checked the dates and the Simon and Garfunkle song about a very similar situation slightly predated the novel, which was about an Arab who played the multiculch game to get tons of easy sex, but was made very depressed by the experience. I can’t remember if the character in the novel actually scored with Mrs. Robinson, but I think that he did.

When I checked this all out I became 100% convinced that the song had something to do with the novel, but I’m not going to retarce my steps again now.

By John Emerson on 02/28/09 at 05:54 PM | Permanent link to this comment

Or maybe the movie, come to think of it. Young Dustin Hoffman.

By John Emerson on 03/03/09 at 01:14 AM | Permanent link to this comment

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