#BLAThoughtOfTheDay: What’s the deal with Lionel Shriver?

Recently, Lionel Shriver, author of We Need To Talk About Kevin, was the topic of this post by Yassmin Abdel-Magied, who walked out of Shriver’s speech — a speech which deliberately brushed aside cultural appropriation and all the problems therein.

Shriver has been a childfree voice (if her book Kevin isn’t enough to convince you to not have children, I don’t know what is), which our own views align with, and we’ve featured her on BookTuber Tuesday.

However, her response to the controversy seems to be the worst part:

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Of course people can tell their stories. But if “telling your story” is the equivalent of shouting to the wind, there is inequality of platform here.

Gabbler makes some more good points here:

Indeed, when self-publishing is spoken about as the only way some diverse authors can get their voices in print, there is something wrong with the system.

I leave you with this quote from Amy Hungerford:

“Sometimes scholars will need not just to silently make their choices without acknowledging the choices forgone, but to refuse, in a reasoned and deliberate way, to read what the literary press and the literary marketplace put forward as worthy of attention. This requires a distinctly nonscholarly form of reasoning: One must decide, without reading a work, whether it is worth the time to read it or not…” [Via]

We are entering a time where we must refuse the scholarly conversation of literature–at least until the time when “scholarly conversation” can include all voices. Until that time, it’s not very objective. Which isn’t very scholarly at all.

Social Medea: Christa Wolf’s Novel

{{Pyramids}}
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GIF of the week:

GABBLER RECOMMENDS: On Not Reading by Amy Hungerford

 

‘The activity of nonreading is something that scholars rarely discuss. When they — or others whose identities are bound up with books — do so, the discussions tend to have a shamefaced quality. Blame “cultural capital” — the sense of superiority associated with laying claim to books that mark one’s high social status….

Consider, however, the fact that, as Matthew Wilkens points out, in 2011 more than 50,000 new novels were published in the United States alone. “The problem of abundance” is a problem for every person who has an internet connection, and it is a professional problem in every corner of literary study. Nonreading, seen in this light, is not a badge of shame, but the way of the future. Franco Moretti has been making this point for years about the literary production of the 18th and 19th centuries, inspiring a few labs-worth of scholars to turn to machine reading — for example, using algorithms to find patterns in a particular era’s literary works. This is a form of not reading that holds tight to the dream that our literary scholarship should be based on the activity of reading as much as humanly or inhumanly possible.

As a culture and as a profession, then, we are daily embracing the decision not to read, even as literary scholars continue to read in every spare moment, even as they worry more and more about how they choose what to read, and even as some of them try to outwit the problem of nonreading with the promise of digitized corpora.

If one’s scholarly bailiwick is the present and the recent past, the problem of abundance is acute. If one is inclined to turn to machine reading for help, copyright law immediately sets up a roadblock. And the various aids scholars use apart from digital tools to navigate the problem — mainly, a cadre of other scholars with whom one collectively covers the field, and editors at academic presses or curators of archives who have tended the field over time — are largely unavailable. The Restoration-era scholar considering what to read among Alexander Pope’s complete works is aided by generations of readers who have studied these works, written about them, and produced edited collections of them. In contrast, the scholar of contemporary literature is thrown back on the literary press, on trade editors, and on book buyers for retail outlets. While any given reviewer may be an excellent reader, and any book buyer may have excellent taste, the literary market as a whole is vulnerable to forces that have less to do with literary discernment and more to do with money, class, contemporary pressures on journalism, the geography of cities, and the social networks that circumscribe the reach of editorial attention or a bookstore’s clientele.

These forces have a profound effect on what is celebrated and what remains culturally invisible among the masses of books written and published, and they affect the meanings that particular books come to have as they enter the stream of culture…

… The cultural dynamics of race and gender, the networks that grow up from shared schooling, the vagaries of bankruptcies originating well beyond the publishing business, the flow of venture capital, and the history of literature taught in the academy all work to pull some contemporary writing to the surface while other work goes under, never to be seen again.

Trusting the literary press and the mechanisms of the market to curate the books we read and study is to hand over whole regions of literary curiosity and judgment before one even picks up a book. Because more books are published than ever before, thanks to the birth of desktop publishing software in the 1980s, to make reading a genuine choice, or an informed one, requires research well beyond The New York Times Book Review, The New York Review of Books, or the display shelves of the major chain bookstores or the “recommended for you” titles on Amazon.

The dream of an informed curation of reading is just that — a dream. Even a scholar dedicated to understanding the geography of contemporary publishing would never be able to survey the options fully enough to make decisions that consistently yield productive subjects of study and that are not simply synonymous with the decisions, values, or accidents of the market.

And yet universities are made to be a haven for study that is precisely not driven by such decisions, values, and accidents. Scholars are supported by nonprofit universities, and given tenure, so that they can pursue knowledge under conditions not entirely driven by the market and their culture’s prevailing norms. If we erect these institutional structures, at great cost, to allow for countercultural thinking, how is the literary scholar to make good on that commitment? What can the scholar of contemporary literature do to preserve, and to be responsible to, the independent mission for which universities exist?

Here is why refusal is so important. Sometimes scholars will need not just to silently make their choices without acknowledging the choices forgone, but to refuse, in a reasoned and deliberate way, to read what the literary press and the literary marketplace put forward as worthy of attention. This requires a distinctly nonscholarly form of reasoning: One must decide, without reading a work, whether it is worth the time to read it or not. And a decision not to read must be defended, and received, on the basis of this different standard of evidence.

Why admit to this unscholarly approach, which seems to run against all our intellectual values — the commitment to open-minded reading and exploration, the commitment to gathering a credible body of evidence before making an argument or a judgment? We need to tolerate this shortfall in method because a scarce resource is at stake: the reader’s time, and, by extension, the attention that could be paid to any number of other books among the throngs that will always remain unread.

If scholars do not resist or at least consider critically the call of the market, a cycle begins that extends the impact of the professional reader’s decision to acquiesce. As professional readers, scholars will often write about what they read, and the time-thrifty ones will invent reasons to write about what they have read, whether or not their reading was carefully chosen in the first place. Professional advancement comes from being part of a critical conversation where others share a given interest and are motived to read new work in the field, so that the literary works that receive reviews or whose authors have become literary celebrities are often those that scholars of contemporary literature take up in their articles. Articles beget other articles; the rising generation of scholars making their way as assistant professors knows that writing about a relatively well-known author or work will make it much easier to get their scholarship published. And so the cycle begins.

A handful of major canonical authors — Joyce, Woolf, Eliot, Stein, Beckett, etc. — continues to preoccupy the journal’s attention while subjects outside that canon fail to create a similarly shared body of criticism. The top 11 authors cited as subjects claim 41 percent of the articles. Most authors not already canonical appear only once or twice each, never achieving the critical mass of scholarship that motivates further study and writing within the context of scholarly careers, let alone further reading by the general public. Such poorly known and rarely taught works are not reissued as their canonical cousins are — in cute new formats, anniversary editions, or as the object of some fresh backlist marketing effort.

Goldstone’s findings show how this disciplinary formation functions a century or so after these writers were contemporary. If scholars of today’s literature follow the lead of the literary press in deciding what to read, in parsing out their reading hours on the work of the well-promoted literary stars (for the plausibly defensible reason that “everyone is talking about them”), then our students’ students’ students will inherit the sort of narrow archive that still structures modernist studies even in the wake of a field-leading journal’s expansive intentions.

My small act of countercultural scholarly agency has been to refuse to continue reading or assigning the work of David Foster Wallace. The machine of his celebrity masks, I have argued, the limited benefits of spending the time required to read his work. Our time is better spent elsewhere. I make this assessment given the evidence I have so far accumulated — I have read and taught some of his stories and nonfiction, have read some critical essays on Wallace’s work, and have read D.T. Max’s biography of Wallace — and without feeling professionally obligated to spend a month reading Infinite Jest in order to be absolutely sure I’m right. If I did spend a month reading the book, I would be adding my professional investment to the load of others’ investments, which — if we track it back — are the result of a particular marketing campaign that appealed to a Jurassic vision of literary genius.

The book’s marketers were smart. They knew their audience and what kind of dare would provoke them: Are you smart enough and strong enough — indeed, are you man enough — to read a genius’s thousand-page novel? Of course they said yes. Having committed the time, those initial readers had then to prove, in writing, that they had something equally smart to say about it. And those yeses were the first of many in the self-perpetuating machine of literary celebrity. Before “Wallace studies” could take a hold on my field, it seemed worth raising the question: Why should we turn the podium over to this author among so many others, to invite him to stand at the microphone of literary culture for a thousand pages and more if it’s not pretty clear to a moderately well-informed person that his work is worth our attention?

I use here the metaphor for public attention that the Mexican poet and critic Gabriel Zaid uses in his delightful little book, So Many Books: Reading and Publishing in an Age of Abundance (2003). Zaid argues that excessively long books are a form of undemocratic dominance that impoverishes the public discourse by reducing the airtime shared among others…’

[Via]

HAPPY ANNIVERSARY TO THE AUTOMATION VOL. 1 OF THE CIRCO DEL HERRERO SERIES!

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To celebrate the anniversary of THE AUTOMATION print edition, we’re hosting a Goodreads Giveaway.

Goodreads Book Giveaway

The Automation by G.B. Gabbler

The Automation

by G.B. Gabbler

Giveaway ends September 30, 2016.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter Giveaway

While you wait, you can read the entire ebook for free on Goodreads too.

Tell your friends (if you have any).

#TBT – Vulcan Statue in Birmingham, Alabama

That time Alabama paid tribute to the Roman god Vulcan by making the world’s largest iron-ore statue because of their involvement in the steel and iron industries. 1904.

BookTuber Tuesday – Library at Mount Char

 

Check out other book vlogs we’ve featured here.

Have a book vlog video you want us to check out? Submit a link below in the comments and it could make the CIRCO blog.

[“BLA and GB Gabbler” (really just a pen name – singular) are the Editor and Narrator behind THE AUTOMATION, vol. 1 of the Circo del Herrero series. They are on facebook, twitter, tumblr, goodreads, and Vulcan’s shit list.]

all yellowB&N | Amazon | Etc.

Social Medea: Family Drama

{{The fat lady sings}}

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#TBT – Nolan 101

That one Nolan brothers film that was steampunky before steampunk was a big thing. 2006.

BookTuber Tuesday – Strangers, Gods and Monsters

Check out other book vlogs we’ve featured here.

Have a book vlog video you want us to check out? Submit a link below in the comments and it could make the CIRCO blog.

[“BLA and GB Gabbler” (really just a pen name – singular) are the Editor and Narrator behind THE AUTOMATION, vol. 1 of the Circo del Herrero series. They are on facebook, twitter, tumblr, goodreads, and Vulcan’s shit list.]

all yellowB&N | Amazon | Etc.

Social Medea: Tragic

{{Acrobatics}}

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From “Melancholy: Between Gods and Monsters.”

“…In short, sexual desire for female beauty was intimately linked, in our mythological unconscious, with an initial ac of sundering and separation. Without castration there could be no sense of that lack, difference or otherness which is so indispensable to the workings of eros. Indeed, we find countless allusions to the amorous, venal and sometimes lecherous character of the melancholic throughout the ages.

The identification of Kronos-Saturn with ‘time’ is more than a phonetic coincidence (Kronos-chronos). The [melancholic] is intimately related to the dread produced in mortals by the scythe of Time the Reaper — i.e. by that separation of all separations, death. The ‘chronological’ character of melancholy is thus captured in Kronos’ threefold act of devouring, substitution and castration, each of which represents a fundamental aspect of time. Indeed another way to read this myth would be to emphasize the futility of Kronos’ efforts to remain eternal by reversing time, drawing is progeny back into himself: an act of monstrous self-absorption punished by the inevitable passage of time as both substitution  (one moment replacing another) and castration (the cutting of the illusion of phallic self-sufficiency). In other words, to the extent that Kronos destroys he is himself destroyed. Kronos is the destroyed destroyer, just as he is the castrated castrator.This paradoxical character of the Kronos-Saturn figure is further underscored, moreover, by the fact that the experience of sundering can also give rise to reactivity. The inaugural myths of castration lead not only to the survival and empowerment of the greatest Olympian deity — Zeus — but also to the birth of beauty and desire (Venus rising from the waves bloodied by castrated genitals). In this reading cyclical time which seeks to return itself gives way to chronological time which acknowledges the ineluctability of historical transience and mortality. It is the virtue of wisdom, capable of accepting the ruptures of mortal existence, which lies at the root of the visual representations of Saturn as elderly sage and resigned soverign. Disenchanted with the narcissistic ideal of self-plenitude, the creative melancholic is one who re-experiences the world without illusion, that is, with eyes capable of seeing otherwise.

According to this Saturnine narrative, in sum, the artist is one who lets go of the ego in order to rediscover him-or herself anew. Working through melancholy towards a form of productive mourning, the artist becomes like a wise Olympian deity, a curious ‘gaiety transfiguring all that dread’ (Yeats). This more upbeat legacy runs from certain ideas of classical antiquity up to the middle ages an early Renaissance, as witnessed in countless sculptures, frescoes, murals and portraits depicting Melancholia as creative thinker, head on hand, calmly embracing death. This is the melancholic mind that authentically accepts its ‘being-toward-death’ (Heidegger). Or to use psychoanalytic language, it is the nationalistically wounded soul that has undergone ‘symbolic castration’ and acknowledged its incorrigible and ultimately insatiable condition as ‘want-to-be’…The melancholic moves from destruction to creation by accepting his/her own death. Darkness encountered and traversed becomes a source of new light, a ‘black sun’. Hence the proliferation through the Western visual tradition of images of the castrated-castrating Kronos holding aloft a sickle, scythe or dragon of time biting its own tail. Unless, these symbols suggest, we embrace our mortality as a limit-experience of irreversible loss, we cannot transform the disease of melancholy into healing insight.”  -Richard Kearney in Strangers, Gods and Monsters. 

See also: On the Sacrifice of the Scapegoat. 

GABBLER RECOMMENDS: Strangers, Gods and Monsters by Richard Kearney

Strangers, Gods and Monsters: Interpreting OthernessStrangers, Gods and Monsters: Interpreting Otherness by Richard Kearney
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A Gabbler Recommends.

View all my reviews

Sminthean Apollo

MOUSE INTERRUPTED

1 Temple of Apollo SmintheusIn the Iliad Homer called the “God with the silver bow/ protector of Chryse” Sminthean Apollo, which has been translated as Mouse Apollo and as Apollo, the Lord of the Mice. Afterward, give or take a hundred or a few hundred years, images of the god with a small rodent began floating about; the twosome showed up sometimes on money and sometimes in stone. One coin showed Apollo with the mouse under his chin; another showed the mouse sitting on the palm of his outstretched hand. A certain Scopas of Paros was said to have carved a statue of Apollo with the mouse lying under his foot (no longer extant). And in the Troad (the Biga peninsula of Turkey today) the Temple of Apollo Smintheus had been rumored to have white mice living under its altar; tales circulated that the people had given the creatures food and water “at the public expense.” The mice were sacred…

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#TBT – Reboot of Music Video for Florence + the Machine

That time they redid Florence + the Machine’s video to match Eat Pray Love’s cultural appropriation. 2010.

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From clowns to…India?

 

On Narcissism:

‘Ultimately, she’s not so much scrutinizing each type of narcissist as she is analyzing the supposedly non-narcissistic person’s interest in them. At the center of this essay is Dombek’s exploration of the “healthy” person’s relationship with the narcissist: our fear of him and our belief that our moment may be particularly marked by narcissism. The driving force of The Selfishness of Othersis the way in which Dombek carefully dissects the anatomy of this particular moral panic. Fear, after all, is necessarily just as much about the terrified as the terrorizing. In her gorgeous, sinuous writing, where each sentence complicates itself, sometimes suggesting its own antithesis, she questions the notion that the fear of the pathological narcissist and narcissism itself are so different at all. We “live in a time so rampant with narcissisms,” she writes, “so flush with false selves masquerading as real selves… a time so full of contagious emptiness, that ours is a moment in history that is, more than any other, absolutely exceptional.” The joke is simple, and characteristic of the mordant irony laced throughout the book: To say that we live in a uniquely narcissistic time is itself an act of narcissism.’

[Via]

[“BLA and GB Gabbler” (really just a pen name – singular) are the Editor and Narrator behind THE AUTOMATION, vol. 1 of the Circo del Herrero series. They are on facebook, twitter, tumblr, goodreads, and Vulcan’s shit list.]

all yellowB&N | Amazon | Etc.

C.S. Lewis on Fantatics and Terrorism and Critics:

“It is great men, potential saints, not little men, who become merciless fanatics. Those who are readiest to die for a cause may easily become those who are readiest to kill for it. One sees the same principle at work in a field (comparatively) so unimportant as literary criticism; the most brutal work, the most rankling hatred of all other critics and of nearly all authors, may come from the most honest and disinterested critic, the man who cares most passionately and selflessly about literature. The higher the stakes, the greater the temptation to lose your temper over the game…Of all bad men religious bad men are the worst. Of all created beings the wickedest is one who originally stood in the immediate presence of God.” – C.S. Lewis, “The Cursings” in Reflections on the Psalms.

EPIC CATALOG: Adaptations as good as or better than the book

You may not need to read the book…

  1. Howl’s Moving Castle
  2. Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell
  3. Wicked
  4. Fight Club
  5. Gone Girl
  6. Jurassic Park
  7. Julie and Julia
  8. The Godfather
  9. Drive
  10. Hugo
  11. The Hunger Games (series)
  12. Slumdog Millionaire
  13. Peter Pan (2003)
  14. Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
  15. To Kill a Mockingbird
  16. Doctor Zhivago
  17. No Country for Old Men
  18. Schindler’s List
  19. The Lord of the Rings (series)
  20. The Devil Wears Prada
  21. The Martian
  22. Divergent
  23. Eragon
  24. Stardust
  25. Shawshank Redemption
  26. Horns
  27. Phantom of the Opera
  28. Gone with the Wind
  29. The Prestige
  30. Dark Knight
  31. The Magicians

EpicGif{Add to the EPIC CATALOG by commenting below.}

[“BLA and GB Gabbler” (really just a pen name – singular) are the Editor and Narrator behind THE AUTOMATION, vol. 1 of the Circo del Herrero series. They are on facebook, twitter, tumblr, goodreads, and Vulcan’s shit list.]

all yellowB&N | Amazon | Etc.

BookTuber Tuesday – Disappointment with Harry Potter & the Cursed Child

“I could have written something better.”

Check out other book vlogs we’ve featured here.

Have a book vlog video you want us to check out? Submit a link below in the comments and it could make the CIRCO blog.

[“BLA and GB Gabbler” (really just a pen name – singular) are the Editor and Narrator behind THE AUTOMATION, vol. 1 of the Circo del Herrero series. They are on facebook, twitter, tumblr, goodreads, and Vulcan’s shit list.]

all yellowB&N | Amazon | Etc.