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Search tags: literary-criticism
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review 2017-06-22 18:09
Eye-Opening SF: "Saving the World Through Science Fiction - James Gunn, Writer, Teacher and Scholar” by Michael R. Page
Saving the World Through Science Fiction: James Gunn, Writer, Teacher and Scholar (Critical Explorations in Science Fiction and Fantasy) - Michael R Page,Foreword by Christopher McKitterick,Donald E Palumbo,C W Sullivan III

“Thus, traditional criticism’s charge that science fiction isn’t, in general, ‘literary’ because science fiction writers don’t focus on or have the artistry to deeply delve into character misses the point that science fiction isn’t about character, it’s about ideas. And therefore, science fiction should be judged by a different set of criteria than mundane mainstream fiction is evaluated.”

 

In “Saving the World Through Science Fiction - James Gunn, Writer, Teacher and Scholar” by Michael R. Page

 

Don't critics ignore SF because there's far too much of it, and the vast majority of it - like any sector of genre fiction - is a bit safe, geared more to selling to a niche of fans than the mass market? Certainly SF fandom is obsessed with genre distinctions (steampunk, space opera, mundane, whatever) that have absolutely no currency in the mainstream world - just like crime fandom (maybe to a lesser extent) worries about distinctions between golden age, hard-boiled, procedural and so on.

In both cases the really good stuff, the stuff that transcends the formulae and has something worthwhile to say - Atwood, or Houllebecq, or Alan Moore, Ballard, or Gunn - it "does" get noticed, it's just that people don't call it SF anymore.

 

 

If you're into SF Literary Criticism, read on.

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review 2017-04-30 22:45
Bad Feminist: Essays - Roxane Gay

Roxane gay is smart and astute and brave and candid and funny. The writing is accessible, clear, and thoughtful.

 

These essays, which cover a range of topics from racism to what makes an (imperfect) feminist to critiques of books like LEAN IN and movies such as DJANGO, are insightful and thought-provoking. Like the best essays, there's something here to make everyone a little bit uncomfortable, and Gay doesn't spare herself the discomfort either. How kind and clever or her to allow us to admit out own warts and wrinkles in the face of her own admissions of imperfection. Well done.

 

And, on a personal note, how delighted I was to find such a terrific critical essay on the topic of THE HELP, a book I loathed, and for which I have taken a great deal of abuse for loathing. Thanks, Roxane.

 

Reading these essays was like having a long conversation with the smartest and wittiest of friends. Highly recommended.

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review 2017-04-06 18:29
Anything Goes: "The Cambridge Introduction to Postmodern Fiction" by Bran Nicol
The Cambridge Introduction to Postmodern Fiction - Bran Nicol

Postmodernism scrutinizes the accepted ways of producing art and finds new ways to portray interesting things. Without this approach everyone would still be scratching stick men onto cave walls. In a world in which change happens so fast, it's useful and important to think in terms of what changes, why it changes, and how the change helps or hinders us. Having said that, and in the long run, post modernism is as irrelevant as any other “ism”, all of which had their own junk philosophies to contend with, what matters at the end of the day is the content of art and how society or an individual responds to it that matters. Sadly post modernism could have provoked a radical and revolutionary response to society but its adherents proved conservative, more interested in money and their careers to make any meaningful art. So unlike so many “isms” whose adherents created great works in spite of a particular ism´s junk philosophy, post modernism hasn´t produced many works of literature worth remembering. Postmodernism is not throwing a whole lot of weird stuff together and seeing what craziness happens. This, however, is what a lot of people, including artists, curators, critics, and journalists who all should know better, think it is, This "anything goes" postmodernism is what winds people up and makes them say 'That's not art!' as if there's something which art ought to be.

 

 

If you're into literary criticism, read on.

 

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review 2017-03-20 15:21
Cultural Chicken Soup for the Soul:"An Experiment in Criticism" by C. S. Lewis
An Experiment in Criticism (Canto) - C.S. Lewis

Literary experience heals the wound, without undermining the privilege, of individuality. There are mass emotions which heal the wound; but they destroy the privilege. In them our separate selves are pooled and we sink back into sub-individuality. But in reading great literature I become a thousand men and yet remain myself. Like a night sky in the Greek poem, I see with a myriad eyes, but it is still I who see. Here, as in worship, in love, in moral action, and in knowing, I transcend myself; and am never more myself than when I do.

 

In “An Experiment in Criticism” by C. S. Lewis

 

 

Anarcho-punk, extreme literature..... Beware the coming revolution.

 

All the best writers are anarcho-punks:

 

-          JJ Rousseau: A Discourse On Inequality

-          Thomas Payne: The Rights Of Man

-          Mary Wollstonecraft: A Vindication of the Rights of Woman

-          Victor Hugo 'Les Miserables' set in the French Revolution in Paris.

 

Dostoevsky wrote his first novel 'The Poor Folk' aged 29. This resulted in him and his 3 co-radicals being sentenced to death by firing squad in the main public square in St Petersburg by the Tsar who was offended by their revolutionary contents. At the last second the Tsar commuted the punishment to 4 years hard labour in Siberia. Two of the writers went mad from this sadist act, but Dostoevsky kept on writing about being on death row, psychological torture, his time in jail and did so for the rest of his life. Orwell. 'Homage To Catalonia' set in Spanish Revolution in Barcelona where anarchists fight fascists.

 

 

If you're into literary criticism, read on.

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review 2017-03-01 11:00
An Author’s Fictionalised Experiences: The Novels of Ōe Kenzaburō by Yasuko Claremont
The Novels of Oe Kenzaburo - Yasuko Claremont

All his life Gustave Flaubert claimed that only the story counted and that its author should disappear without trace behind it, but however passionately a writer may assure that her or his work has nothing whatsoever to do with her or his life, such complete objectivity is an illusion. It’s impossible to achieve because nobody’s soul is an empty slate. Every word that a person jots down, be it on the spur of the moment or after long thought, be it in fiction or non-fiction, inevitably mirrors past experiences, education and views. To truly understand a literary work it can therefore be helpful to know the biography of its author, notably when the writings are complex or full of symbolism. In her critical study The Novels of Ōe Kenzaburō Yasuko Claremont from the University of Sydney analyses the literary oeuvre that the recipient of the 1994 Nobel Prize in literature produced between 1957 through 2006 and links it with important events in the Japanese author’s private life beginning in his childhood.

 

As Yasuko Claremont illustrates, the writing of Ōe Kenzaburō – like every author’s – isn’t static but changes over the decades and often mirrors events that had a more or less important impact on him as a person, on his family or on society altogether. She also demonstrates by several examples that the works of the author, notably early ones like Nip the Buds, Shoot the Kids and award-winning Prize Stock, clearly show the marks of his partly traumatic, partly spiritual experiences as a boy in a remote village surrounded by dense forests during and shortly after World War II and then as a young man in war-shattered Tōkyo where he studied French literature. According to the scholar these formative years quite naturally account too for the more constant elements in his opus, above all for Ōe‘s themes that are generally depressing as well as full of violence and despair in all their (cruel and destructive) manifestations. She states as well that his entire literary oeuvre is permeated with humanistic moral views that are clearly influenced by Western literature and philosophy, notably Jean-Paul Sartre, C. G. Jung, Wilhelm Reich, Mikhail Bakhtin and the Bible. Moreover, Yasuko Claremont finds the roots of the mythical abstractions that he uses throughout his career in the ancient legends that he heard in his childhood and that he internalised. The most obvious changes in Ōe’s writing the scholar sees in his approach to themes and characters. The three big stages of development that she identifies in the author’s long as well as successful literary career are a deeply Sartrean existentialism that saturates his rather bleak early work – e.g. the story Nip the Buds, Shoot the Kids or the novella Seventeen – on which follows a more positive phase surrounding the principle of atonement – as in the novels A Personal Matter and The Silent Cry – that eventually leads the author to the concept of salvation in daily life – like in the novel Somersault.

 

Having read so far only one novel by Ōe Kenzaburō (»»» read my review of The Changeling on Edith’s Miscellany), it was difficult for me to follow the literary and spiritual path that Yasuko Claremont traced in such detail. It’s true that she integrated summaries of all the author’s important works into her study (not least because several of them aren’t available in English translation), but naturally it wasn’t the same as knowing the full text. Certainly, her target audience were other scholars and fans of the author with a comprehensive knowledge of his work. Nonetheless, this critical study of The Novels of Ōe Kenzaburō was an interesting and as regards the novel that I read and reviewed also an enlightening experience that made me curious about the en-NOBEL-ed writer’s other works, above all the later ones that seem to be less bleak and less overtly violent.

 

The Novels of Oe Kenzaburo - Yasuko Claremont 

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