Literary Linkdump

D. G Myers argues that Toni Morrison’s Beloved is not a masterpiece:

The truth is that the stream-of-racial-consciousness interlude is a display piece, a verbal stunt that is connected to the rest of the novel by the thinnest of fictions—and by the ambition to leave a monument to the suffering caused by black slavery. The odd spacing and lack of punctuation, the fragmented phrases, are little more than an attempt to defamiliarize what are, to be honest, scenes and images that have been familiar since the first photographs of Hitler’s death camps were published in the United States. The dead, heaped in a pile, are nothing new. Only the typography is new.

And that, finally, is the trouble with Beloved. The central idea of the novel is arresting and memorable, although Sethe’s murder of her child may only be a variation on Sophie’s Choice, but nothing else about it is. Beloved has been called a ghost story, but it has neither of the “two ingredients most valuable in concocting a ghost story,” according to M. R. James, the genre’s best-known practitioner—it has neither atmosphere nor the “nicely managed crescendo.”[7] It has, in fact, no pace at all; it is, at best, a series of tableaux. Morrison is more interested in disrupting the chronological narrative than in telling a story. And her ghost is not really a ghost; she is the Oversoul of black folk. My guess is that, secretly, few readers believe in her reality. They claim to believe otherwise because the novel’s monumental pretensions and rhetorical self-importance—to say nothing of the overwhelming scholarly backing—suggest the presence of greatness where nothing of the sort is to be found.

Luckily Myers has been blogging only a year, so it won’t be difficult to catch up on his great literary commentaries. Will report back later.

Chandrahas Choudhury covers contemporary Indian fiction written in English. This essay appears in Foreign Policy! His blog Middle Stage has some essays and book reviews. Will report back.

In contrast, some of the best Indian novels of the last two decades, whether in English or in translation, are largely unknown to American readers. A classic example is Kiran Nagarkar’s Cuckold (1997), which is set in the royal court of the 16th-century Rajput kingdom of Mewar and told in a rich and powerful English that is easily the equal of the best Indian prose writing in English today. Another example is Fakir Mohan Senapati’s Six Acres and a Third, first published more than a hundred years ago but only recently translated into an English worthy of its original Oriya. A riotously satiric village comedy, it is one of the earliest and greatest Indian novels, but it appeared in the United States in 2005 to no reviews and no press.

India is so multilingual and multicultural that it might be more truthful to think of every Indian novelist, whether writing in English, Urdu, Hindi, Tamil, Bengali, Kannada, Telugu, or Gujarati, as a kind of translator. No novelists, whatever language they work in, can be said presumptively to be "authentic," as they sometimes are in the literary-critical wars in India today. Rather, novels earn their authenticity through their attention to specific details of character and situation and through the ingenuity of their problem-solving.

Lizok’s Bookshelf, a contemporary Russian fiction blog.

TV Tropes, a wiki/encyclopedia of TV plots. This resource is really becoming amazing. I found out about this site from MaximumPC’s 50 kickass sites you need to know about.







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