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Tuesday, April 15, 2014


Hodgepodgery, or thoughts collected and bits of articles read over the past Sunday and Monday and tossed into a post in disorderly fashion... Stew over them as you will!

"Madison," WCU, circa 1904.
Marly in Cullowhee

What hometown fun! Thanks to undergraduate Amelia Holmes for the article on me in Nomad: The Quasquicentennial Edition (Western Carolina University), written for Dr. Kinser's senior seminar course. "The students wrote about topics related to Western Carolina University, highlighting the university and its faculty over the course of 125 years." My father was professor of analytical chemistry, and my mother head of serials at Hunter Library, WCU.

Rereading. Christopher Beha on "Holy crap":

So here’s my main point: books that one doesn’t know how to read, books that challenge our ideas about what fiction is supposed to be doing, are more interesting to talk and think about. And at least when it comes to fiction, these are the books that I want professional critics weighing in on, so these are the books that I want the TBR to cover. Unfortunately, the phrase we most frequently use to describe such books is the same phrase we use to describe members in good standing of the conventional genre called “literary fiction.” This is one reason I don’t really like the phrase “literary fiction.” It is also one reason I don’t like thinking about books as members of genres at all. Instead I like to think about individual books. If I have to think about genres I suppose it could be said that the genre of fiction I find most interesting to talk and write and read about—the one I think the TBR should be reviewing—is the genre that has the genre specification “does not conform to any genre specifications.” For our purposes I would call this genre “Holy Crap fiction.” In case I haven’t made this clear, lots of Holy Crap fiction isn’t all that good. Certainly lots of it is objectively worse than the average competent genre novel. But even bad Holy Crap fiction is far more interesting to talk about and read about than a competent genre novel, because it requires making sense of. A corollary to this is that there is no such thing as a merely competent Holy Crap novel.

Launch day

Gary Dietz's book of heartfelt, real-life narratives about fathers and disabled children has its launch day today. I've updated the page on Lady Word of Mouth to include more purchasing links and the book's facebook page--please visit and like.

More thoughts on patreon 

10 p.m. Monday: At the end of 48 hours on patreon, I have three patrons... and am still pondering whether this is: a.) desirable; b.) useful; c.) all-around okay; or something I can do, since I am somewhat allergic to vigorous horn-tooting. Anyway, tonight there are three pieces up, all free. Nevertheless, I could dither over my opinion if I had time. However, I don't right now. Maybe after tonight's eclipse, if I don't crash. Should peak about 3:00 here. Yawn. However, it seems to be . . . raining.

Art for Glimmerglass by Clive Hicks-Jenkins
2nd pass galleys, Glimmerglass 

The galleys are done. I proofed and made five little tweaks. And that's THE END of that. Next time I'll see a .pdf with Clive's art in place, so that will be exciting. The design for chapter openers looked lovely. Then will come lovely new books.

Great poetry giveaway

We're about halfway through the time for the giveaway. One lucky person will receive a couple of books...

At Salon: David Foster Wallace was right: Irony is ruining our culture 

But David Foster Wallace predicted a hopeful turn. He could see a new wave of artistic rebels who “might well emerge as some weird bunch of anti-rebels… who dare somehow to back away from ironic watching, who have the childish gall actually to endorse and instantiate single-entendre principles… Who eschew self-consciousness and hip fatigue.” Yet Wallace was tentative and self-conscious in describing these rebels of sincerity. He suspected they would be called out as “backward, quaint, na├»ve, anachronistic.” He didn’t know if their mission would succeed, but he knew real rebels risked disapproval. As far as he could tell, the next wave of great artists would dare to cut against the prevailing tone of cynicism and irony, risking “sentimentality,” “overcredulity” and “softness.”

Wallace called for art that redeems rather than simply ridicules, but he didn’t look widely enough. Mostly, he fixed his gaze within a limited tradition of white, male novelists. Indeed, no matter how cynical and nihilistic the times, we have always had artists who make work that invokes meaning, hope and mystery. But they might not have been the heirs to Thomas Pynchon or Don Delillo. So, to be more nuanced about what’s at stake: In the present moment, where does art rise above ironic ridicule and aspire to greatness, in terms of challenging convention and elevating the human spirit? Where does art build on the best of human creation and also open possibilities for the future? What does inspired art-making look like?    --Matt Ashby and Brendan Carroll

Dear Salon, 

Look harder. A lot of us out here in the wilderness have been making art out of words and paint and more, setting ourselves against the grain of the times. Plenty of us have devoted our lives to making a kind of art that can soar up above nihilism and despair and irony--making "art that redeems" in opposition to what is most lauded and supported by the system that tells people what art to see and read.  Put on your glasses. Those who have eyes to see, let them see.

So touching...

I love this little article about writer Hugh Nissenson. He was no failure but seems to have often felt himself one. So I am glad to see this tribute. No doubt if he had been more sentimental and less of a truth-teller, he might have had more readers. In this age, it is his glory that he hewed to his own path.

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Alas, I must once again remind large numbers of Chinese salesmen and other worldwide peddlers that if they fall into the Gulf of Spam, they will be eaten by roaming Balrogs. The rest of you, lovers of grace, poetry, and horses (nod to Yeats--you do not have to be fond of horses), feel free to leave fascinating missives and curious arguments.