Posts by: Michael Berger
More and more “serious” “literary” writers are turning to zombies, werewolves, and vampires for inspiration. This could be symptomatic of something dire or something hopeful in the world of writing. We could dither endlessly about the ramifications.
But perhaps we need to stop abstractly generalizing and focus on specifics instead....more
“A little grave reflection shows us that our first duty is to establish a new and abusive school of criticism. . .There is merely a chorus of weak cheers, a piping note of appreciation that is not stilled unless a book is suppressed by the police, a mild kindliness that neither heats to enthusiasm nor reverses to anger ....more
“. . .there has been widescale attacks on social movements over the last thirty or forty years in response to the very meaningful social movements in the sixties and seventies that had very transformative demands, that were seeking a redistribution of wealth and of life chances in really significant ways....more
Everyday life is surprisingly full of hair-raising adventures. Sometimes you don’t realize it until you’re in the thick of it.
Waiting for the grocery store manager to confirm that you are not in fact the same guy who stole the roast chicken three days prior....more
“That it is being considered as book of criticism, rather than as memoir, seems the luck of the draw. Some of the essays in it were originally published in the guise of book reviews, but they always jump the rails of literary journalism and go off on their own course — assessing not just the text but its place in the constellation of her own interests and personal history, which are (respectively) various and knotty.”
In light of all the back and forth about memoirs, I think this appraisal of Terry Castle’s The Professor and Other Writings is pretty enlightening....more
“The great thing about freelance, of course, is the numerous freedoms it embraces, chief among them being the freedom to work in your underwear. This seems to be the one that everyone knows. I was talking on the phone to an uncle of mine who’s in a nursing home, and when I told him I was working freelance, he said, ‘Oh, the underwear people!’”...more
Just like last week, Belgium, for reasons obtuse and inexplicable is on my mind.
I discovered at 50 Watts a guest post by Edward Gauvin about a Belgian writer named Thomas Owen that English-only readers are not going to encounter anytime soon....more
Never heard of the ancient, wonderful and criminally under-acknowledged Pilcrow?
Then go savor the musings at Shady Characters, a blog about unusual punctuation. (Via: Book Bench)...more
“Writers love to watch their online listings. First, there’s watching the rankings that can be ginned up by a one-day spike.
Then noticing, sometimes within days of being listed, used and like new copies of their books for sale by some seller, like, in the middle of Michigan....more
“If reading heightens your responses, shapes your idea of the world, gives you a sense of the purpose of life, then it is not surprising if, over time, reading should come to play a proportionately smaller role in the context of the myriad possibilities it has opened up....more
I’m only a little bit Belgian but enough to have pride when “my country” celebrates a new record: going the longest of any country without a functioning government.
To honor this record, I suggest a monastic ale paired crash course in terrific Belgian writers: Luc Sante, Raoul Vaneigem and the very strange Henri Michaux just to name a few....more
Comes from Gary Snyder from his influential and beautiful book of essays, The Practice Of The Wild.
It’s in the opening essay, “The Etiquette Of Freedom” where he says:
“Practically speaking, a life that is vowed to simplicity, appropriate boldness, good humor, gratitude, unstinting work and play, and lots of walking brings us close to the actually existing world and its wholeness.”
There is something in that statement that I can’t stop thinking about even as it rains in sheets this morning, thus preventing me from wandering around and bringing my boldness and gratitude into play with the outside world....more
“So I guess I don’t feel like I seek strangeness out—I feel like we’re all surrounded by it—but there’s so much bewildering noise in our culture right now, at such a deafening and constant volume, that it’s easy for me to become inured to the strangeness of any ‘ordinary’ Tuesday.”...more
“Fiction needs intellect, but it can’t survive on intellect alone. . .It has to arrive at the other embarrassing things, things that seem too banal to talk about in like the appreciation of small details of things that other people leave at home because they’re not worth discussing…Questions that intelligent people would find too dumb to ask like, ‘Am I really alive?’ or ‘What does it mean to be good?’”...more
“But even from the inside of a human life, it’s possible to see when you’ve made a baby seal out of thin air, and someone is coming along to bash its head in with a club, because its coat is silky, and because you have the awesomely exploitable ability to rearrange matter, to have creatures explode from your skull, to utter inutterable things....more
In school I took a class on female poets and was instantly taken with the poetry of H.D., especially her later work Trilogy, a savage and mythic poem about rediscovering meaning in the ruins of war. One of the founding Imagists, H.D....more
Breaking news from the world of AWP and everything associated with it:
“To provide a haven for those either too broke, too busy, or too disillusioned (with the fact that really it ought to be AWWP, jeez) to attend the massive four-day conference in Washington, D.C., an assortment of Brooklyn writers and editors are taking over Brooklyn Winery from 8pm to 10pm on Friday, February 4th....more
“I do not believe that apparent authoritative literary voices of validation would ever make such a grand claim about a novel written by a woman. I say this because I believe there are many novels by women that are about the same sort of world as presented in Freedom. Sadly, the culture usually calls these books domestic or family sagas. Are the novels of Anne Tyler, Marilynne Robinson and Mona Simpson any less white and middle “American” than Franzen”...more
“Aswany has participated in the protests with a passion. He will will write a book about the events still unfolding here: ‘It has been a unique experience not to read about history but to live inside history,’ he told The Independent yesterday.”...more
“I love that discussion about Coca-Cola spending $450,000 to have Coke in space because carbonation is not lighter up there. Everything weighs the same. The gas stays in the middle, it doesn’t rise to the top, so they spent $450,000 making carbonation work in space so they could say, ‘Official Carbonated Beverage of the International Space Station.’
And then they realized that in the human stomach, if gas doesn’t rise to the top of the stomach, you can’t burp it out....more
“It’s a shaggy-dog tale, one that eventually—boldly—invites comparison to its great progenitor, Don Quixote. In cutting a classic wide swath, Pacazo exposes itself to risk, a tricky balance between hilarity and horror. By and large, though, this rangy novel earns its claim to the old knight’s inheritance.”...more
“FoundSF is a wiki that invites history buffs, community leaders, and San Francisco citizens of all kinds to share their unique stories, images, and videos from past and present. There are over 1,800 articles here presenting primary sources, essays, and images from history....more