July 28, 2018

"An ethical way to continue teaching Wallace, Hayes-Brady suggested, would be to rigorously study the latent misogyny in his work, for what it can tell us about 'the texture of the world Wallace lived in.'"

"She spent the last stretch of her speech demonstrating exactly how that might be done, rigging a blacklight to an excerpt from Brief Interviews [with Hideous Men] and forensically analyzing the stains — say, the double-silencing of its female protagonist, whose rape is described solely by a man, to another female character who is never heard in the text. You could also, Hayes-Brady suggested, defuse and enhance Wallace’s work by studying him in tandem with thematically similar works by writers he influenced, like Porochista Khakpour and Zadie Smith. I thought these concepts were compelling, and mostly persuasive, but then I would think that, as would everyone else in the room. Hayes-Brady’s talk gave us exactly what we wanted; perhaps what many of us came to Normal to find: a cogent and nuanced permission structure within which to a) continue reading Wallace (none of us were ever going to stop doing this, anyway) and b) justify our continued reading to others — others who, like anyone with a political conviction in 2018, are fundamentally unpersuadable, and who either way wouldn’t take well to being accused of neoliberalist sympathies."

From "Academics Explain David Foster Wallace to Me/A report from the 5th-annual David Foster Wallace Conference, where the author’s most devoted readers are wondering how to approach him in 2018" by Daniel Kolitz. Explaining what's so bad about DFW the man, Kolitz writes:
Wallace taught at ISU for nearly a decade; he wrote almost all his major works there, including the 1996 behemoth Infinite Jest. He also liked to sleep with his students, was abusive to his girlfriend at the time, the writer Mary Karr (whom he’d tried to push from a moving car not long before moving to Illinois in the summer of 1993, and also once hurled a coffee table at), committed statutory rape while away on book tour (or at least told a friend he did), and wrote to his friend Jonathan Franzen to say that he sometimes thought he was “put on earth to put his penis in as many vaginas as possible.”
The essay title "Academics Explain David Foster Wallace to Me" is a play on the famous essay by Deirdre Coyle, "Men Recommend David Foster Wallace to Me."

That reminds me of an obligation that's been hanging over my head all year. Remember, back in January, I wrote:

I've said a few times that I love the nonfiction essays of David Foster Wallace but I can't force myself into the fiction... [David] Lipsky [author of "Although Of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself: A Road Trip with David Foster Wallace"] emailed me and challenged my resistance to reading Wallace's fiction. I've tried to get into "Infinite Jest," and I can see how much fun it's supposed to be, but it's just not fun for me....

Anyway, Lipsky recommended 2 short stories that might awaken me to the joys of reading fiction from David Foster Wallace: "Good Old Neon" and "The Suffering Channel" (both in  the collection "Oblivion"). I've read them and I've been mulling over what to say to Lipsky, something about the difference between fiction and nonfiction. I was thinking the answer is something like: In Wallace's nonfiction, we see, through his eyes, people and situations that are really out there in the world. In his fiction, his mind has created a world, and everything in it he made for reasons that came out of his head, and that's just too intense, too nightmarish, too sad. In his nonfiction, he goes on a cruise ship or to a state fair or a lobster festival or to the porno film awards ceremony. He comes up with perceptions and ideas about those real things that other people created, that are not figments of his imagination. He didn't invent things for the purpose of making us feel awful about them (or good about laughing at them). That stuff really exists, and he's our fascinating companion, looking at it with us. We're not alone....
Mulling over what to say to Lipsky... I'm still mulling it over! I have a mental block about this. Since reading those 2 DFW stories, I've read 5 books by Haruki Murakami (4 of which were fiction). I can read fiction. I'm not just anti-fiction. In fact, I like fiction these days as an escape from the ridiculous journalism I encounter every morning as I do this blog. But I'm working my way toward saying I hate the fiction of David Foster Wallace. I really hate it.

124 comments:

rhhardin said...

Thought experiments are good fiction. In quest of the ordinary.

DFW will always be Dallas Fort Worth to me.

rhhardin said...

Misogyny is thinking like a man. If it's latent, it's because you're gay.

rhhardin said...

If you want to rigorously study a writer, look for truth and apt observations, not latent misogyny.

If there isn't any t&ao, read somebody else.

rhhardin said...

Points for not being a die-hard split infinitive avoider. Prescriptivism is patriarchy.

mccullough said...

I like his fiction and non-fiction. And I can understand why people hate the guy’s fiction (or all his writing).


I don’t care if he fucked his students or was abusive to his girlfriend. And I don’t need people who call themselves scholars to explain his writings to me or lecture me about the guy’s shortcomings. They are just jealous of his talent (and the pussy he got).

tim in vermont said...

I doubt there is a man alive with normal levels of testosterone who hasn’t had the thought once or twice that the meaning of life might be to put your penis in as many vaginas as possible. That doesn’t make it a credo.

Robert Cook said...

An "ethical" way to teach Wallace? Since when is it required for writers to be taught in the context of ethics? If their work is of sufficient literary value to be taught, teach it for the literary value that it possesses...its original or unique or beautiful use of language and metaphor--if therein lies its quality--or for its original or memorable depiction, understanding, or satire of the world, of human character, of existence, if that is what recommends it.

If the writer was less than morally admirable in his or her personal life, must it be brought up? In some circumstances, perhaps, but in all? And, even if a writer was a monster in life, is this important in regarding the work? Does it impeach the work?

We want to like he people who write books we like, (just as we want to like actors and other performers who do work we like), but this won't always be the case. But then, they aren't presenting themselves to us, they're presenting their work. That's all we're entitled to from them.

Paco Wové said...

"Neoliberalist"? What's that?

Ralph L said...

Explaining what's so bad about DFW then man, Kolitz writes:

You forgot the comma after "then," or something.

tim in vermont said...

His fiction is brilliant, coruscating, to use a word I learned here at Althouse, but trying to explain the beauty of it to people who can’t see it is pointless. If you don’t get it within the first couple of pages, the interview at the university, then you will NOT enjoy the novel. That’s what’s on offer, that kind of writing that’s there on display right at the beginning. Take it or leave it.

Ralph L said...

Jeez, Robert, and you call yourself a Progressive. Get with the program!

Henry said...

I couldn't place "Brief Interviews" at first, so I had a nice time wondering who this horrible guy Wallace was. Edgar Wallace, the crime novelist and scriptwriter of King Kong? Mike Wallace, the television correspondent? Chris Wallace? Wallace of Wallace and Gromit? William Wallace, sacker of York?

Robert Cook said...

"I doubt there is a man alive with normal levels of testosterone who hasn’t had the thought once or twice that the meaning of life might be to put your penis in as many vaginas as possible."

Well, that kinda is "the meaning of life," inasmuch as life has no purpose or meaning other than to continue replicating.

JohnAnnArbor said...

Jeez, Robert, and you call yourself a Progressive. Get with the program!

I know, right? There's a mob to placate. No logical argumentation allowed!

tim in vermont said...

According to The Rhetoric of Fiction what makes a work great is when the “implied author” holds up to scrutiny. Not the “real author.”

Angle-Dyne, Angelic Buzzard said...

"Hayes-Brady’s talk gave us exactly what we wanted; perhaps what many of us came to Normal to find: a cogent and nuanced permission structure within which to a) continue reading Wallace (none of us were ever going to stop doing this, anyway) and b) justify our continued reading to others — others who, like anyone with a political conviction in 2018, are fundamentally unpersuadable, and who either way wouldn’t take well to being accused of neoliberalist sympathies."

Christ, what a herd animal.

"Permission structure". Jaysus.

I can't muster interest in the writings of people who refuse to enter the estate of human adulthood.

("Neoliberalist" appears to be a the trendy new ooga-booga word on the left, with some recently-minted woke nuance beyond the standard meaning of "neoliberal". Something like "wrecker", as far as I can tell.)

mccullough said...

Cook,

You are too sensible. These people have given in to hysterical scolds for too long. Is there a diversity panel for each conference on a writer? It’s fucking nuts. He was a heterosexual white guy from the Midwest with a high iq and mental health and addiction issues. He killed him self a decade ago.

People might as well avoid reading him for fear that it will cause suicide. If people don’t want to read him, then don’t read him. Read the black lesbian. There is a conference on her. Maybe some heterosexual white guy in Scotland can Skype in on the Diversity Panel at her conference and say “this shit just doesn’t speak to the issues facing the white, 30 something heterosexual man in Glasgow in 2018.”

These people can’t boycott Wallace or ignore him. Instead, they have to play these silly games.





Ralph L said...

Henry, I thought of George Wallace first.

Paco Wové said...

I've read very little DFW, just what I've been directed to on the Internet – the lobster thing, the porn convention thing, and the cruise ship thing. It was pretty good, but I never considered it great. I never felt the urge to pursue his fiction writing, which I suspect I would react to as Althouse does.*

That said, it's interesting watching the pretzels these ideologues (the academics) twist themselves into as they attempt to confront things that don't fit into their rigid mental classifications, and which at a deep level they don't understand at all.

--
*Two other authors whose non-fiction is generally superior to their fiction: Peter Mattheissen and Paul Theroux (though Matthiessen's Far Tortuga is one of my favorites). And yet I think both of them personally preferred their fiction – the non-fiction just paid the bills.

Etienne said...

DFW was legally insane (with a bad haircut). Extrapolate from that.

It's typical that the two things the insane find interesting, is vagina's and guns. It's like the penis is the 11th digit.

Paco Wové said...

"Since when is it required for writers to be taught in the context of ethics?"

The humanities are returning to their original medieval function, the training and indoctrination of a clerisy.

tim in vermont said...

What’s funny is that they taught us all of this “overlook the man, look at his work” stuff in the ‘90s.

I only like to bring it up because it’s fun to rub their nose in their blatant hypocrisy.

buwaya said...

Whatever one thinks of DFW, the attitude of this piece is typical, and far more important than the qualities of any writer.

It defines the state of the US intelligentsia. They really are like this, and it is people like this that rule, they train the teachers of the teachers. You will find it dominates in the liberal arts, in history, and in the social sciences as well as many professional schools, and is infecting tech and the sciences.

It is corrupt and degenerate beyond redemption. You will never again gave a sane intellectual class, it will be ever greater insanity and perversity, until, probably, some foreign power ends it all.

Or until some revolution burns down your universities.

tim in vermont said...

The humanities are returning to their original medieval function, the training and indoctrination of a clerisy.

Fascism has a tenet that there can be no art outside of the needs of the state. So does communism, but some strange coincidence. Classical liberalism, as in free market, maximum human freedom, has no such rule, yet we are the fascists.

Angle-Dyne, Angelic Buzzard said...

Paco: That said, it's interesting watching the pretzels these ideologues (the academics) twist themselves into as they attempt to confront things that don't fit into their rigid mental classifications, and which at a deep level they don't understand at all.[emph added]

IOW, these people are not all that bright.

Probably a function of a metastasized academy for which the number of slots available is far greater than the number of people intelligent enough to have any business making a career in "higher education" in the humanities. Thus you have a population of people for whom a superficial verbal facility substitutes for real intelligence.

tim in vermont said...

I guess it’s not fascism if art isn’t required to serve “The State,” but only the “Deep State.” Right?

buwaya said...

This is not the training of a clerisy.

The proper Marxists did that, and even they were not as neurotic as this.
Give me rather a gang of armed radical Maoists anytime, they would be easier to talk to and reason with.

Henry said...

Paco Wove said...

Two other authors whose non-fiction is generally superior to their fiction: Peter Mattheissen and Paul Theroux

Add to that Edward Abbey

Bad Lieutenant said...


tim in vermont said...
His fiction is brilliant, coruscating, to use a word I learned here at Althouse, but trying to explain the beauty of it to people who can’t see it is pointless. If you don’t get it within the first couple of pages, the interview at the university, then you will NOT enjoy the novel



It all sounds like shit being judged by diarrhea, but if you say so, I will read this intro piece of whatever novel you are referring to. Which novel was that? I'll try to find the passage in Google Books unless you have link.

I see no downside in executing everyone who writes and thinks like these academics. Probably even they would be relieved and flattered. Plus we could get electricity from the bodies.

Ron Winkleheimer said...

@buwaya

I've tried to talk to people about how batshit crazy academia has become, but I'm mostly blown off because they don't believe it could be as bad as I say it is. I did see a guy on the FNC calling for a moratorium on all federal funding for universities and for them to be reconstructed, but that's not going to happen. Best case scenario is that people stop sending their kids there because they see no benefit in it and state governments in red states start looking really hard at what the money is being spent on and what is being taught.

buwaya said...

If it were merely a matter of art serving the state, that would be one thing.
The Soviets did that, and so did, in a much less constrained way, the despotic Russian Czarist regime. It skewed and limited, but you could get great art anyway. Or, perhaps, this helps great art happen. Ref the line from "The Third Man" on the Borgias and Switzerland.

Ref, for an overview of Russian cultural history, "Natashas Dance", Orlando Figes

The modern American intellectual atmosphere isnt that however.
Its not a bit about directing thought, but preventing it.

Chanie said...

We're just that much further down the slippery slope of affirmative action. We've gone from puffing up underrepresented people and view points in the name of promoting certain social values over substantive merit to disavowing and burying unpopular people and view points despite their merit. I've never read Wallace, and I have no idea if his non-fiction or his fiction is any good. But that should be the only question. Whatever he else he may have been doing with his life doesn't affect words on a page. And the same goes for a litany of others. These paintings from the early twentieth century aren't worthy any more because the painter was antisemitic. These movies from fifty years ago aren't worthy because the director was homophobic. Pretty soon they're going to tell me Babe Ruth's home runs didn't count because he was an alcoholic womanizer who emotionally abused his wife. I wouldn't hire Kevin Spacey to watch my kids, but what the hell does that have to do with me watching his movies? It's not just celebrities and artists at risk. The thought police are invading every institution and we're being forced to consume the mediocrity that follows. Before long I won't be able to take my car to the best mechanic in town -- he'll have been run out on a rail -- but the best mechanic who thinks right, speaks right, donates to the right political parties, and supports the right local social action groups. And so too we'll all soon be discussing the latest Correct Films and Correct Books while wearing Correct Clothes over plates of Correct Food. That is, unless those fascist Republicans get there way.

tim in vermont said...

It all sounds like shit being judged by diarrhea, but if you say so, I will read this intro piece of whatever novel you are referring to.

Infinite Jest.

I don’t think his non-fiction is anything to write home about, BTW.

Crazy Jane said...

This business of conflating the dancer and the dance may have started in 1989 with Arianna Huffington's book, "Picasso: Creator and Destroyer." It was a deep dive into the artist's personal life and an effort to explain his work in that context. Pablo didn't come off too well because he was a thoroughgoing jerk and an egomaniac to boot.

Every artist of any kind wants to be remembered for his work, not his personal life. (At this point, I imagine politicians -- Jefferson, Wilson et al --- would say the same thing.)

But still we meddle. We go to poetry readings and movies about Vincent van Gogh and Gaugain. We consult actors on their public policy views.

Truth is truth, whatever its vessel.

Ron Winkleheimer said...

Of course universities are, in addition to indoctrination centers, sinecures for otherwise unemployable people. If you want to study, for instance, women and their treatment within society in the past, why do you need a separate department? Why wouldn't that come under, I don't know, the History Department? The reason you need a different department is a) because in the past if you tried to pass off some of these wacky, ahistorical "theories" a real historian would be around to dispute it, and b) it allows the hiring of more like minded individuals. A really isn't an issue any longer because real historians have been ran out of academia or learned to keep there mouths shut so now it is mostly b.

Virgil Hilts said...

clicking through I followed a link to http://the-toast.net/2015/05/12/books-that-literally-all-white-men-own/ on which DFW ranks fairly high. I don't own many, but think i've read 52 of the 79 books. Not sure if that's a good/bad score, but bet Ann has read as many (or more) so not sure if this is a legitimate list.

buwaya said...

Consider this -

Whatever stupidities the MSM inflicts on the people as entertainment today, that lot that is creating this stuff was better educated in a much less degenerate system than that which is teaching your kids right now.

The people writing, directing, approving all this current dreck are in their forties and fifties.

Sebastian said...

"a cogent and nuanced permission structure" It's a tell on the prog mind that a) a permission structure is needed and b) it can possibly be described as "cogent and nuanced."

"within which to a) continue reading Wallace (none of us were ever going to stop doing this, anyway)" Whoa, that's your mistake right there, buddy (is buddy OK within your permission structure?). Better not to start bad habits. By the way, do we need permission not to read DFW?

"and b) justify our continued reading to others" Another tell on the prog mind: that reading needs to be justified, to others. Wouldn't want people to be free to choose, to coin a phrase.

"others who, like anyone with a political conviction in 2018, are fundamentally unpersuadable," The tells keep coming. First, this disposes with the prog cliche that literature helps people see things from other people's points of view, to resist easy generalizations about the human condition. Cuz "anyone" with a "political conviction" obviously would think x. Second, it confirms that progs are so rigidly dogmatic, so anointedly sure of themselves, that they are "fundamentally unpersuadable." Bye-bye Enlightenment.

"and who either way wouldn’t take well to being accused of neoliberalist sympathies." Two final tells: confirming the extreme puritanical sensitivity of progs to being accused of holding any politically incorrect attitudes, and invoking a mindless cliche, badly formulated, to characterize prog "convictions."

The whole thing assumes that literature must serve an ideological purpose and that reading must be justified by prog political goals.--assumptions that follow, of course, from the Universal Theory of Progressive Instrumentalism.

Angle-Dyne, Angelic Buzzard said...

buwaya: It is corrupt and degenerate beyond redemption. You will never again gave a sane intellectual class, it will be ever greater insanity and perversity, until, probably, some foreign power ends it all.

Or until some revolution burns down your universities.


Rambling thoughts:

That there comes a point for any "elite" class where it has to justify its elite status. Our current "intellectual class" has lately been exposing its bozosity to an extraordinary degree. ("Showing their ass", in the slang parlance of my own college days).

Two contributors to the non-elite condition of of our "elite" intellectual class.

1) The expansion of the universities. The mediocre students in lower-tier institutions who end up in "Studies" classes (because they're not bright enough for a genuine tertiary education) are not elites, but they provide foot soldiers for that class. So ordinary people who could have had ordinary productive lives via a useful skill or trade that would have instilled common sense about life are diverted into a cult of crazy that they lack the intellect/experience/social structure to see their way out of. (Throw in the emotional burden of heavy debt-load for a worthless degree.)

2) The push for gender equality. The distribution of high intellectual talent is not evenly distributed between the sexes. The highest tier of just about any field should always have more males than females, because males significantly outnumber females the farther right one goes on any aptitude/trait curve. If "elite" institutions or organizations are at or close to sex-parity, that suggests several possibilities:

There are significant numbers of women who don't belong there, and conversely that more qualified men may have been shut out in the quest for "gender parity". So, no longer elite.

Or, it's not quite so straightforward. It's long been noted that men tend to abjure jobs/fields with "too many women". So "too many women", even if reasonably qualified, will tend to drive away more highly qualified men (and maybe women, too), leaving a less than best-of-the-best field of women and men who aren't turned off by the feminized environment they presence inevitably creates. Et voilà, a decidedly "non-elite" elite institution.

On the other hand, elite classes historically have managed to grow decadent, and crash and burn without female participation. On the other, other hand, observers throughout history have remarked on the rising influence of women (behind-the-scenes or overt) in the decadent stage of ruling castes. Whether that's really true or not, I don't know, but the current crazy of our "intellectual class" does seem to tend toward the characteristically female kind of crazy. (Paging rh.)

If so that suggests that a more qualified "intellectual class" will constitute itself outside of the institutions that have been gutted by the crazy mediocrities. Enormous tragic waste of resources along the way, though.

Sebastian said...

http://the-toast.net/2015/05/12/books-that-literally-all-white-men-own/

"Literally all white men," eh?

Not sure if I count as white, but I think I own 4 or 5, at least one handed down to me by a woman, several non-fiction, I believe (the 9/11 report?!), and have read a few more. Do I have permission to keep not reading books I suspect to be bad or boring or uninformative?

Glad I'm not part of the patriarchal literary system, anyway. Blame the other guys.

buwaya said...

I have never read a word by DFW.

And it doesn't matter, it could be about the Three Stooges or John Milton. The problem here is the world-view and value system of the critic.

Paco Wové said...

"Literally all white men," eh?

Breathlessly waiting for the sequel, Books all Jews own.

rhhardin said...

"What's the holdup? President Lincoln should be back from the theater by now."

- Veep season 3

nifty additions to cliches

buwaya said...

Sebastian lays it (or much of it) out. Well done.

Angel-Dyne, this is not really a matter of dilution, I think.
You have dilution of course, but that could have been dealt with in other ways.
There are ways of dumbing down material and keeping the gist.
The Catholic Church has been doing this for thousands of years.
If you can't read scripture or Aquinas the priest will tell you what you need to know in simple words.

The system is a hierarchy. The pattern for the world view is set at the top, by people who are smarter than we are. Teachers teach teachers teach teachers.

Fernandistein said...

“put on earth to put his penis in as many vaginas as possible."

So he liked girls and wasn't a misogynist.

"cogent and nuanced permission structure"

Where'd that gibberish come from?

Obama promotes the term 'permission structure'

Oh.

Etienne said...

buwaya said...I have never read a word by DFW.

Why would you, unless you were insane or interested in insanity.

A lot of schools will hire a professor based on their economic needs. If they have an opening in the English department, they usually get a bunch of old geezers who taught in high school for 30 years applying.

So, to have a young face for the kids is economically desirable. Even if the fucker is stark raving mad with an erection at all the wrong times.

Kids are into that.

Howard said...

Blogger rhhardin said...

Misogyny is thinking like a man. If it's latent, it's because you're gay.


This makes no fucking sense. The whole premise of gay is misogynistic.

The Cracker Emcee Rampant said...

From the list Sebastian links I only have Lucky Jim actually in the bookcase, but yeah, I’ve read most of the others in the past 30-40 years. The list seems severely dated. Who, these days, is citing Exodus as a document of the patriarchy?

buwaya said...

I've read over half of Sebastians' list, I may have owned most of that lot at one time or another.

gbarto said...

For the list: I own 14, have read 19. Not necessarily the same ones.

Should have done this on my phone. Do I have time this morning to go through the "Prove you're not a robot" rigamarole?

gilbar said...

Kolitz writes: Wallace taught at ISU for nearly a decade
no he Did NOT!
ISU stands for Iowa State University *NOT* some Illinois state school.
There is NO REASON for any confusion
ISU colors: Cardinal and Gold
Normal colors: Cardinal and Gold
ISU mascot: a red bird
Normal mascot: a red bird

ISU birthplace of Peanut Butter, the Digital Computer, the Uranium metal for the ATOMIC BOMB!

some school in Normal (or is it Bloomington ? (is there a difference?)) some boring writer

tim in vermont said...

Do I have time this morning to go through the "Prove you're not a robot" rigamarole?

Ignore it, I never click it.

BudBrown said...

Like learning the triple toe double twist back flip with a flair then
realizing all the judges gonna be east german.

Fernandistein said...

gilbar said...Cardinal

The Cardinal: Most Fuckable State Bird"

Jupiter said...

Angle-Dyne, Angelic Buzzard said...


"It's long been noted that men tend to abjure jobs/fields with "too many women". So "too many women", even if reasonably qualified, will tend to drive away more highly qualified men (and maybe women, too), leaving a less than best-of-the-best field of women and men who aren't turned off by the feminized environment they presence inevitably creates. Et voilà, a decidedly "non-elite" elite institution."

To put the matter bluntly, chicks ruin everything. First they say, "It's not fair that you won't let us do that with you". So you let them do it with you. Then they say "You're not doing this right". Chicks ruin everything.

Jupiter said...

Well, not sailing. Chicks don't ruin sailing.

William said...

The Old Man and the Sea is littoraly Hemingway's greatest novel.

Ficta said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
tim in vermont said...

I am not sure that “literally all white men” own a book by Jon Stewart, but I guess if you live in a cocoon. But I have read most of them.

Ficta said...

Blogger Ficta said...
I've read much of DFWs non fiction. I think it's very very good; maybe not quite Joan Didion or Tom Wolfe, but right up there. I've read The Pale King and several short stories and they're...okay. Infinite Jest is, for me, way beyond all of the rest in quality.

If you like DFW's noonfiction definitely check out John Jeremiah Sullivan.

Fernandistein said...

Love me, love my 4th order Markov chain -

I Hope The Grapes of the Dead, John Grisham
Patriot Grass, ??
On Ecstasy, Irving Sun
A Walk in the Bonfire of the Flies, JRR Tolkien
The Tipping to Garp, Joseph Heller
Portnoy's Rainmaker, Malcolm Gladwell
The World Is Not About the Stand, Jack London
Godel, Escher, Margarita, Vladimir Nabokov
The Bonfire of the Dog In the Dead, Cormac McCullough
A Brief Wife For A Hat, Thomas Pynchon
I, Clavell
Slaughterhouse of the Vanities, Salman Mailey
Into the Da Vinci Code, Dan Brown
The Man Who Moved My Cheese?, Spencer John Grogan
Lord of the Cold, Jack Kerouac
The Man Who Mistopher, Hitch Albom
The Girl With the Dog In the Bike, Laura Hillenbrand
The Girl With Rich Dad, Robert Jordan
Into the Seamus Heaney Translation of Time, Mitchenson

William said...

How do they teach William S. Burroughs? Is it better to kill your wife in a drunken game or to throw her out of a moving car? Asking for a friend. Special props for Norman Mailer who stabbed his wife in the back. While it's true he did not end her life, it's also true he didn't spend a single day in jail for his misbehavior, nor suffer much harm to his reputation. Ted Kennedy is, of course, the champion at this, but he was not technically a writer nor even, so far as is now known, literate,

n.n said...

Concealed, secret... in a black hole? I mean a black whore? That concealed, secret?

How much money, energy, and supercomputer time will it require to decode?

buwaya said...

As Burroughs go, Edgar Rice is much more fun than William S.

n.n said...

The left of center Hollywood and celebrity cliques promote Planned Parenthood et al including selective-child that denies women's agency (Pro-Choice is two choices too late) and recycled-child a la Mengele clinics. It's neither latent nor occult, and unlike similar historical undertakings which were processed behind a veil of privacy, this product of this legal occult is well known and self-evident.

n.n said...

Individual dignity, intrinsic value, and inordinate value.

Men and women are equal in rights and complementary in Nature.

Go forth and reconcile.

The latent denigration of individual dignity based on diversity and scientific liberality is not latent, but is a State-established occult (i.e. secret, concealed, privacy) under the Twilight Amendment.

William said...

Edgar Rice is one of the outer Burroughs and doesn't have much cachet.......If you want to slap, stab, or murder your wife and still maintain critical esteem, a career in literature is the best bet. There are some real giants in that field who were utter scumbags.......The public at large is far less forgiving of comedians and politicians. That's what makes the achievement of Ted Kennedy so remarkable. He got to walk away from a drowning woman and suffered no repercussions.

Two-eyed Jack said...

The idea of teaching literature to 19-year-olds is, in itself, fairly absurd. Tolstoy did not write for 19-year-olds, nor did Nabokov, Kafka, or Borges. For the most part, however, thinking about literature is organized around an educational apparatus for the mentally and socially immature. A proper education can aid in maturation, but the "educators" are mostly engaged in a competition for recognition by others of their ilk. Each seeks to be "influential," so they all push their odd theories and strictures. In the past English professors could teach our civilizational consensus on Shakespeare and Milton, without pushing any odd or novel ideas (or at least that is what I am told by a friend whose father started teaching English at Dartmouth in 1929). Not so today. Fortunately, little of what they push has any real impact, aside from convincing much of the public that we have slid far down a steep slope.

The Vault Dweller said...

The main thing I learned from Critical Anything studies, is that everything is bullshit, including whatever explanation your critical whatever studies professor wants you to believe. I think this is why Jordan Peterson hates those Frenchy intellectuals so much. Because their entire message seems to be nothing is real, you can believe anything is anything. Seems pretty destructive towards society.

The Vault Dweller said...

Blogger Two-eyed Jack said...
The idea of teaching literature to 19-year-olds is, in itself, fairly absurd.


I don't know. I think learning literature helps young adults. I'll agree there are some thing they may not get, or fully appreciate until later. But it doesn't mean there can't be something that they can appreciate for different reasons as they age and get more experiences. Even fictional accounts of tragedy can help some realize that tragedy and adversity is something that is universal to all humans, so when an individual eventually experiences their own tragedy or adversity they can take solace in the fact that it is not unique to them.

Marcus said...

I am a white man, literate and proud. I have owned and/or read 18 of these books. I doubt that I will stay awake all night trying to figure out the author's point. I might, however, stumble upon the idea for a clickbait article: Ten Netflix shows that literally every THOT stays up to watch

LordSomber said...

I thought David Wallace was from Scranton.

buwaya said...

Literature is great for kids.
Its all stories, and that is largely how culture is transmitted.
Verbal culture just gave way to literary culture.

Jay Elink said...

I look at that white man's list and I wonder:

How many books did the bitch who put together the list write, that are read by *anybody*?

Doesn't she know that publishing lists and listicles is what failed blog and website authors do? That's it's a "tell"?

And, OK, let's ask the obvious question:

What supposedly regrettable books do "literally all white women" own?

I'd guess "Fifty Shades of Grey" would be at the top.

Michael said...

It should be noted that Robert Cook is the one and only liberal who shows up for any post involving book reading, a topic that is as garlic to vampires to leftists.

I find the three named writer a bore.

Henry said...

I admit to owning the translation of Beowulf by Heaney. It is a work of genius.

Are the other translations less manly? That's an odd thought.

Two-eyed Jack said...

Vault Dweller and Buwaya say that "Literature is great for kids/young adults."

I agree, I enjoyed my college literature classes (drama, more drama, German novellas, Nabokov seminar) and the novels I read for other classes (Modern Japanese History benefited, particularly).


I think literature can help create functional models of your own society and other societies and provide valuable and resonant examples of how ones life is shaped. It also transmits the common culture. Unfortunately, this seems to be an old-fashioned notion of education. I think that this requires a connection with an adult high culture that shares a consensual view of the value of particular works. Instead we have a pulling away from and a subversion of any notion of canon. Everything in the past is now interrogated and found wanting.

Henry said...

Back when I was young, I had a few friends who were nihilist poets. I liked those guys. They could justify everything.

That was an ethic.

buwaya said...

Jack, its not that the past is "interrogated".
That may have been true, once. It was a stage.
So was any concept of a "canon".
But it was something known, if vaguely.

For the most part now its is ignored. Its a blank.
It can't be "interrogated" because it all has disappeared.
Teachers cant teach it because its a blank to them too.

Michael said...

Ernest Miller Hemingway
Francis Scott Fitzgerald
Lyov Nikolayevich Tolstoy
Fyodor Mikhailovich Dostoevsky

How much hipper if they used all three names like the subject. So precious.

I Have Misplaced My Pants said...

a cogent and nuanced permission structure

Lol, fuck that noise. Someone needs a little Cartman in his life I do what I want!

Two-eyed Jack said...

Buwaya, I had some good friends in grad-school days who went on to be English faculty, so I saw some of the pressures. These people really did love literature like Walter Scott, but were pushed to find a post-colonial angle on it.
Some of what I see is similar to what happened in Art programs. The first generation of abstract painters were very good at realistic rendering as well. By the third generation, the teachers were covering for the fact that they no longer have any idea how to draw.
Now we are in the process of declaring David Foster Wallace, who was born when I was four, to be part of the dispensable past and insisting that English majors should be able to dodge any boring courses on Milton or Spenser.

buwaya said...

Its not a very "manly" list really.

Its just a bunch of best sellers of the last forty years, and not representative of even that. There are good books in there, but it lacks the really male stuff like technical literature. No Kernighan&Ritchie. Next to no military history (not even Stephen Ambrose!) No Science Fiction. etc.

The books you will never in the history of the universe get women to read, the most male of male literature - thats a long list, but examples of some books that are found quite commonly used, and that are still in print -

United States Naval Operations in World War II - Samuel Eliot Morison, ed.
The Conspiracy of Pontiac, Francis Parkman
A History of the Penninsular War - Charles Oman

Freeman Hunt said...

All the bad non-fiction in the world on the topic is not going to make me care more about the author than the work. People are messy. They are good and bad, some of them more bad than good. But their work? Sometimes that is sublime.

Henry said...

Walking on Eggshells 101 -- Required course. Engineering majors are allowed to opt out.

buwaya said...

When I was a kid, Walter Scott was for kids.
I read "Ivanhoe" in the fourth grade. Along with Zane Grey and Burroughs.

buwaya said...

Also no management books, left over from every fad since the 60's.
No Drucker, no Iacocca, no "In Search of Excellence", no "Book of Five Rings".

Leonard Pailet said...

I admit up front that I have not read Wallace, either fiction or non-fiction. The little I could tell about him from the way he was discussed, I did not want to waste my time with a writer who was "an academic", so much so that his craft was theoretical, not technical.

Such writers are not everyone's cup of tea. And what you are presented as being worthy to read is not necessary what is worthy but what is the latest fad culturally or the accepted standard by the money people.

I have written verse for over 60 years, have written over 200 plays, fiction, non-fiction, etc. and my peers who have read my work love it, no matter what political persuasion they are because I let them judge what I am trying to say but I try to provide a medium that is entertaining. Of course, I have published one or two verses outside of college/university student-led booklets. I have had a few plays produced at college and I always got the responses I hoped to get. But I was not what the latest trends were when I went to NYC and when I hooked up with some people in Britain, nothing came of it although they liked my writing.

You have the right to reject whatever you wish for whatever reason if you have tried to read it on its own terms and find that you do not like the terms. Just remember you are getting what a small, in-group of people want to push. You don't have to put up with them either.

Two-eyed Jack said...

Buwaya, there is something to be said for books that appeal to all ages. As G.A> Henty said in his introduction to "The Lion of the North":

You are nowadays called upon to acquire so great a mass of learning and information in the period of life between the ages of twelve and eighteen that it is not surprising that but little time can be spared for the study of the history of foreign nations. Most lads are, therefore, lamentably ignorant of the leading events of even the most important epochs of Continental history, although, as many of these events have exercised a marked influence upon the existing state of affairs in Europe, a knowledge of them is far more useful, and, it may be said, far more interesting than that of the comparatively petty affairs of Athens, Sparta, Corinth, and Thebes.

Guildofcannonballs said...

"The Man Who Mistopher, Hitch Albom"

Well miss on you pisster, go back off in your own jack yard!

The Vault Dweller said...

Blogger Leonard Pailet said...
You have the right to reject whatever you wish for whatever reason if you have tried to read it on its own terms and find that you do not like the terms. Just remember you are getting what a small, in-group of people want to push. You don't have to put up with them either.


Given that, what is your opinion on there being an established canon for English or Literature students? Isn't part of the value of literature in culture the fact that it is shared? It can be a shared frame of reference for society to understand different issues? Do we miss out on that if everyone simply chooses to read whatever they want?

Khesanh 0802 said...

I did a little Googling on this guy because I had never heard of him. He was a real shit apparently. Why read him?

Earnest Prole said...

I'm with you: I find his nonfiction endlessly fascinating, while my mind is actively repulsed by his fiction. It's almost as though it were written by two different writers, except of course that you see certain stylistic tics in both. Mystifying.

Etienne said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
buwaya said...

G.A.Henty wrote at a time when schoolboys were expected to know something of the doings of Athens and Sparta and Thebes.
G.A.Henty also wrote at a level that most High School teachers would be unable to impose on their students.
And moreover his stuff was not official, these weren’t schoolbooks, it was just for the entertainment of little boys. At one time, IIRC, Macaulays “Lays of Ancient Rome” was considered lightweight, and a desirable school prize for said little boys.

Imagine a modern school, with such students.

Robert Cook said...

"How do they teach William S. Burroughs?"

I suspect William Burroughs is seldom taught in college literature courses. His work is still too outre, extreme, and offensive. I've read NAKED LUNCH, QUEER, JUNKIE, CITIES OF THE RED NIGHT, and bits and pieces of others. QUEER and JUNKIE, written in straight, economical prose, are quite good. Burroughs is a master of hard-boiled narrative writing. NAKED LUNCH and CITIES OF THE RED NIGHT required some resolve for me to get through them.

As it happens, I'm reading CALL ME BURROUGHS right now, a biography by Barry Miles. It's really good. I find I'm more interested in Burroughs as a personality and in the idea of his writing more than I am interested in his actual writing.

rcocean said...

Does any intelligent person take the "College Humanities" seriously?

They were considered a clownish Joke when I went to college - and that was 30 years ago!

No College English LIt Professor has made ANY contribution to our enjoyment of Great Literature.

Just burn the suck down!

Ralph L said...

Literature is a hundred times better when you don't have to read it.

tim in vermont said...

How could The Moon is a Harsh Mistress be left off of that list? No Heinlein? No Time Enough for Love, Stranger in a Strange Land,Dune ?

tim in vermont said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
tim in vermont said...

Ha! “The bitch that put it together”

Now it all makes sense. That explains Jon Stewart being in there. Explains the almost total absence of Sci Fi. Though is was a decent list for a chick to have made up, but it’s really hard to keep the mask from slipping.

tim in vermont said...

Stephan Ambrose is covered by Jon Stewart, Ambrose being famously politically incorrect.

Blech!

Ken B said...

What a stridently anti-intellectual article. What a stridently anti-intellectual exercise, making that list.

tim in vermont said...

“anti-intellectual” does not mean what you think it means. I used to think that it meant what it sounded like, but actual anti-intellectualism is to reject the “permission structures” of your intellectual elite. For instance, it is anti-intellectual to review the scientific literature on climate change as presented by the IPCC and come to your own conclusions. I have argued with otherwise intelligent liberals who, when they can’t answer a point, they say “They must have thought of that.” They are not “anti-intellectual” because they swallow whole what the intellectual class feeds them.

You thought it meant not using your own brain to carefully think stuff through after reviewing the best evidence and arguments, I bet.

Ken B said...

Tim
Guilty. *hangs head in shame*

One of the comments on the list was to chime in with The rise and fall of the third Reich. Now the idea of the list is to deny these works value, to say they are just tribal thing. Think that out in regard to shirer's book!

Ken B said...

Tim
Dune is the worst novel I have ever read.

rcocean said...

Books on the Sebastian's List that I like:

6. A Farewell to Arms, Ernest Hemingway
A Song of Ice and Fire, George R.R. Martin
15. The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald
16. Lolita, Vladimir Nabokov
47. The Spy Who Came In From the Cold, John le Carre
63. Lord of the Flies, William Golding
64. The Lord of the Rings, JRR Tolkien
65. The Bonfire of the Vanities, Tom Wolfe
69. The Complete Sherlock Holmes, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
70. The Big Sleep, Raymond Chandler
72. A Clockwork Orange, Anthony Burgess
74. The Call of the Wild, Jack London
76. I, Claudius, Robert Graves
77. The Civil War: A Narrative, Shelby Foote


But any "White man" who owns anything by Leon Uris, Irving Stone, E.L. Doctorow or Christopher Hitchens is a fucking moron.

Michael said...

Robert Cook

Burroughs was much in vogue along with Kerouac and Ginsburg and Celine and Camus with the faux beat high school guys I led. I will find and read the bio.

Do you think it odd that there are no progressive commenters on this post? I don't think the progs go in for literature.

Howard said...

https://www.artofmanliness.com/articles/100-books-every-man-read/

Like their recommendations better

William said...

Our relationship with favorite authors is far more intimate and yet distanced than it is with our favorite actors and comedians. Salinger, Hemingway, Fitzgerald and Vonnegut are part of who I am. They're embedded in my synapses and have shaped how I look at the world. Some of these writers have behaved in very shabby ways indeed, but I give them a pass. I also forgive myself for most of my youthful indiscretions. We're all poor forked creatures wandering about the moors......Those Hollywood types, however, really truly suck and their crimes are unforgivable.

Jay Elink said...

William said: "Salinger, Hemingway, Fitzgerald and Vonnegut are part of who I am."

I suspect the bitch who made this list wishes that the premise of Vonnegut's "Harrison Bergeron"---that great dancers were required to have weights strapped to their ankles just to make it "fair"--- was put into practice.

"No grande jetés for YOU, Barishnikov!"

Oso Negro said...

@Tim in Vermont - yes! I reject your permission structure and freely use the word “negro”.

Ken B said...

No one needs permission to think. Yet. That’s their complaint.

gilbar said...

As it happens, I'm reading CALL ME BURROUGHS
Robert Cook; have you read Kentucky Ham? it's by his drug addict son.
Both authors have an ability to make being a drug addict seem (to me, at least) really, Really, REALLY undesirable.

narciso said...

Really exodus or the haj also his iris trilogy was unimpressive. As well as his topical late 20th saga, actually stones Michaelangelo tale was pretty good.

narciso said...

I liked tinker tailor, it was less cynical than spy.

narciso said...

Some of Herman wouks later work like the promise, is very good.

PaoloP said...

This Wallace reminds me of Picasso, Lacan and so many other heroes of the left who abused women routinely and wit gusto, and were adored by their followers even more for their revolutionary and "liberating" approach to sexuality.
Today's Victorian prudery in the left ranks is amazing; it's probably born from both feminists' vengeful attitude toward normal sex, and the attempt to promote Islamic morality as healthy and wise (while the Christian one had been demolished as oppressive and bigoted).

Robert Cook said...

"'As it happens, I'm reading CALL ME BURROUGHS....'
"Robert Cook; have you read Kentucky Ham? it's by his drug addict son.
Both authors have an ability to make being a drug addict seem (to me, at least) really, Really, REALLY undesirable."


I have KENTUCKY HAM on my shelf, (published as a two-fer with SPEED, the son's other novel). I haven't read either one yet, though they are both very-well reviewed. I do plan to get to them eventually.

Zach said...

But I'm working my way toward saying I hate the fiction of David Foster Wallace. I really hate it.

I had a similar reaction to John Updike. Hub Fans Bid Kid Adieu is a fantastic piece -- well observed, well written, well thought out. But the fictional world he creates in something like Rabbit Run is incredibly off-putting to me.

I like him as a writer, I just can't stand his fiction.

Zach said...

Wallace in particular is famous for his densely footnoted, almost ADD style of nonfiction. He's constantly noting little oddities in the scene. But in his fiction, he's creating the oddities instead of observing them. Things that are witty and observant in one context become writerly and tedious in another.

Zach said...

Regarding "ethical" qualms about teaching an author because of personal biographical details which don't make it into the writing, whatever happened to The Author is Dead?

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Death_of_the_Author

Once upon a time, directly identifying a piece of art with biographical details of the author was considered incredibly gauche. Naive. Basically, one step up from sounding out the words while you read.

It's funny how little attachment the Humanities have to their methods of interpretation when it comes to any interaction with the current day. It's fine for the author to be dead if nobody reads him. But people read and enjoy David Foster Wallace, so suddenly biographical details matter!

Zach said...

"Hayes-Brady’s talk gave us exactly what we wanted; perhaps what many of us came to Normal to find: a cogent and nuanced permission structure within which to a) continue reading Wallace (none of us were ever going to stop doing this, anyway) and b) justify our continued reading to others

This is just making yourself the first line of censorship. Who needs permission to read a book for pleasure? Who *wants* permission? What would he do if he didn't get it?

Christopher Smith said...

You've read 5 Murakami novels? I wish you would do a blog post about them (or several posts). I'm a big fan of his work, but it looks like you've only touched on them tangentially so far.