Links: Good Enough for Government Work

I recently finished Adam Haslett‘s novel on financial malfeasance and the definition of good citizenship, Union Atlantic. More soon, but for now suffice to say it’s a rare case of a novel I wished were longer. Turns out Haslett cut out plenty.

Parents of students at a high school in Santa Rosa, California, recently attempted to pull T.C. Boyle‘s The Tortilla Curtain from its reading list. Boyle’s response: “I do take it as a badge of honor…. It’s preposterous. Look at what kids are exposed to daily in the pure crap on TV or at the movies or rock and roll—it’s a free country. This is art. How many rape scenes do you suppose the average child has seen watching TV in his life?”

A Harvard Crimson columnist reads the first section of Philip Roth‘s American Pastoral and detects a “heavy fog of exhausted and demoralized irony,” whatever that is. Failing to complete the novel doesn’t prevent the writer from drawing comparisons to The Road. Now, committing acts of comparative literature can be great fun, but it works a lot better when you’ve actually finished both books. I had assumed this was taught at Harvard.

Joyce Carol Oates recalls growing up in Lockport, New York—a hometown that, she notes, she shares with Timothy McVeigh. Her interest in creepy violence in both fiction and nonfiction being well-documented, it makes a certain sense that she’d be tapped as a source for a story on Amy Bishop.

Tobias Wolff inspires a tattoo.

Ole Miss is trying to come up with a new mascot. Why not William Faulkner?

A documentary on David Goodis is now available on DVD. The trailer:

8 thoughts on “Links: Good Enough for Government Work

  1. “Exhausted and demoralized” describes me after reading any novel by Goodis.
    I’m not sure what that Harvard Crimson columnist is getting on about.

  2. I’m glad to read that you liked Union Atlantic. I’m a big fan of “You Are Not a Stranger Here” so I’m looking forward to reading Union Atlantic, but I’d read a negative review of it in the NYT which put a damper on my excitement.

  3. I agree with your observation about the length of Haslett’s book, but his skill at compression is admirable. From my review:

    “Haslett easily could have padded out this novel by a hundred or more pages by offering extraneous detail on Doug’s financial scheming or by turning Charlotte’s case into a Dickensian slog through the labyrinth of the legal system. Instead (and in a way that’s one of the great strengths of the novel), he opts for a spare, almost impressionistic style that’s especially effective in illuminating the motivations of his characters. Charlotte and Doug’s legal battle is epitomized by one raucous courtroom scene; the tenuousness of Doug’s financial empire is summed up in a few terse phone calls with a rogue trader in Hong Kong; and the lifestyle excesses of the time are symbolized by a lavish Fourth of July party that lurches from catastrophe to farce.”

    The full review:

  4. What an arbitrary comparison between The Road and American Pastoral. And I can’t believe he didn’t read the whole book before making this judgment. It’s the juxtaposition of Swede’s perceived inner life with his actual life that creates such a beautiful book that definitely isn’t ironic. The first part sets up this tension. Before making grandiose statements, perhaps one should read more than one chapter. What a joke.

  5. I read the only other article the Harvard guy wrote. It’s title: “Leaving The Great Books Unfinished.”

    It details how he gives us on books. “I made it through a hundred and fifty pages of “War and Peace.” I called it quits on “Moby Dick” after the sixth chapter on the subtle complexities of whale oil. “Wuthering Heights” withered after seventy pages. “Gravity’s Rainbow” only lasted nine. I’ve accumulated a pretty impressive list of books that I’ve stopped reading. In fact, my growing catalog rivals many lists of the greatest novels ever written.”

    Why is this person even bothering to review books if he can’t get through anything but still renders judgment?

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