March 13, 2007



I'm surprised "Crime and Punishment" made the top ten of unfinished novels in the UK. It was one of those books one is compelled to read by one's own self-sustaining literary ego complex that I was delighted to discover was so damn good.

I think Wallace purposely confused top ten works of literary merit with top ten books he liked -- in an effort to turn his nose up at literary snobbery, he committed the exact crime he tried to avoid.

"Annie Proulx, of Brokeback Mountain fame, finds Zane’s project 'difficult, pointless and wrong-headed.'"

I think Proulx confused a description of Zane's project with a description of herself. Witness the Oscar debacle a few years ago. Okay, I hated "Crash", too, but so much has been made of the venerable -- meaning, you know, "old" -- Proulx's still tack-sharp writing, you'd think she'd recall she hails from a generation that didn't whine when they lost.

Drew North

Pertaining to James Wood -

I recently picked up The Broken Estate at the library and read the intro as well as his criticism of Pynchon and DeLillo. I admire his writing and insight (Wood's), and he is one of the better literary reviewers (I use that term in the best sense of the word) out there. But, if I had a picture of a dead horse being beaten at my fingertips, I would post that picture here now.

This lowest common denominator Wood returns to again and again - that of character strength above all else - misses the mark when it comes to Pynchon and it simply will not work. I found the major players of the Traverse family all "well-rounded" portrayals, and when you have 100+ characters in the cast, so to speak, they can't ALL be right out of a Henry James novel.

Wood has also leveled this same criticism against Coetzee in a review about Disgrace. Brilliant review, but, again, misses the mark completely because he (Wood) is attempting to put square pegs into round holes. Oddly, in The Broken Estate, he touchs on nothing about Cormac McCarthy. Not one single mention. I wonder why that is?

Thanks for the link to the review and congrats on your recent nuptials! However, if it a choice between Wood or Pynchon and Coetzee, I think I'll take Pynchon and Coetzee.

Steven Augustine

Wood needs to widen the focus of the loupe through which he views Literary Art. Or, better yet, open both eyes. We don't all turn to the novel for instruction... nor to be 'frightened', uplifted or to have any of our emotional settings otherwise tweaked or redeemed; some of us come for the Art and that's what we stay for (if Art is in evidence).

Time and again, Wood imposes the technological limits of a sub-genre (the 19th century Bildungsroman?) upon the vast, wild, and not-entirely-defined possibilities of The Novel...very much how a man who knows almost everything about tax laws, say, will tend to steer all conversation (in a queue at the bank, or chatting at a cocktail party) in that direction.

Are the figures on the canvas in 'Guernica' convincing as horses and people? Are they 'true'? If 'true', are they more, or less, 'true' than Freud's masticated nudes or Miro's biomorphs? Was Chagall doing his best to get us to suspend disbelief in the reality of flying green-faced orthodox fiddlers? No, Mr. Wood: no. The draw is the power (and inspiration) of formal mastery; the delights are in the quirky codes and puzzles of the artist's personal vision.

Are the visual Arts *so* far ahead of their Literary siblings...or is it merely the reviewers (even the educated ones) who are terribly far behind?

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