Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Language, longevity and book clubs

  • Natalie Angier sniffs around the notion of “dirty words” at the New York Times.
The notion of language being obscene and/or disgusting became utterly irrelevant to me the first time I ever saw what a bullet did to a living thing. Of course, if you torture and/or kill in the name of your country or your god, you’re in the clear. Humanity baffles me.
  • Carlos Fuentes fetes Cervantes’ Don Quixote and its influence on the literary form known as the novel.
I’ll be glad when Quixote’s 400th anniversary year is over so I can get back to enjoying the book again. The problem with something like Quixote is not that it’s overrated, per se, but that it sometimes doesn’t quite bear the weight of all the innovations it’s supposed to have ushered into existence. Nonetheless, Fuentes makes a number of good points about a novel’s shelf life, and how it can live far beyond its creator’s expectations.
  • Slate’s Fall Fiction Week closes out with Meghan O’Rourke’s adventures in unraveling The Sound and the Fury, with a little help from a certain book-loving talk-show host.
Either you go with Faulkner, or you don’t. Read this piece either way; O’Rourke’s take on him is insightful and practical. Oprah’s book club choices have been hit-and-miss with me -- most of the ones I’ve read, like Midwives, The Reader, Ellen Foster and House of Sand and Fog, didn’t add up to much -- so I have to give her credit for going with a trifecta of modernist classics that require a bit more effort to get through. But I daresay I kinda preferred it when she was introducing new authors to the scene. So much for that... thanks a lot, Franzen.

(Update, 9/22/05: The new book club selection from The Oprah is James Frey's memoir A Million Little Pieces. Ehhh... fine.)

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