Tuesday, February 16, 2016

What I’m reading #131

In the New York Times, Michiko Kakutani enthuses that:
Garth Risk Hallberg’s “City on Fire” is a big, stunning first novel and an amazing virtual reality machine, whisking us back to New York City in the 1970s […] Despite being overstuffed, it’s a novel of head-snapping ambition and heart-stopping power — a novel that attests to its young author’s boundless and unflagging talents.
At The Awl, Carmen Petaccio lists “The 50 Most Unacceptable Sentence in City on Fire, in order”, starting with:
50: “Just then, a horripilating Scaramouche appeared at her elbow.”
49. “Detonations crash in from nearby like the walls she’s a void at the center of.”
48. “Every time a truck passed the frayed ends of the wine’s wicker sleeve trembled like the needles of some exquisite seismometer.”
You see where we’re heading? Towards:
44. “She seemed to want to retract any extension of herself, to become a move-less white egg.”
Yes, that is only #44. The full list is here. The top 20 are quite something, but the top 10 are really special.

Have you ever heard Virginia Woolf? Now, thanks to the Paris Review,  you can. Here are seven minutes and 39 seconds of her talking about “Craftmanship”:

To my ears, she sounds like Brian Sewell. If I may quote Quote Unquote:
Brian Sewell is an English art critic of a certain age and a certain disposition. My painter friends will be horrified by my confession that I have always enjoyed his writing. I did know that he spoke in the most affected accent ever, one that makes the Queen sound common, but had no means of sharing this. Until now. Don’t miss the second page. Click fast enough on different links and you get a wonderful sequence that makes as much sense as most contemporary art criticism. Try his “Liverpool” and “Hungarian art”. Then “White eunuch” and “Sliced cucumber”, in that order. 
After reading the recent biography by Jonathan Bates, CK Stead considers Ted Hughes and, among other things, his infidelities:
And when Bate, seeming to follow hints from Hughes, suggests ‘his infidelity to others was a form of fidelity to [Plath]’, I felt there was something shabby either about the poet, or his biographer, or perhaps both. Not that sexual fidelity is a necessary moral principle; but to make it a principle observed by non observance seems devious in the extreme.
My father was an RAF navigator/bomb-aimer. After the war he achieved many things but, like his friend Les Munro of the Dambusters raid, for some reason he never got around to writing romance novels. Happily, that gap in the market for romance novels by former Lancaster bomber aircrew has been filled by Bill Spence, who has recently published his 25th novel as Jessica Blair. Quote unquote: 
“After the war there wasn’t much call for a bomb-aimer. I spent a while with the RAF after the war, and never really got into teaching. I was bitten by the writing bug.”
After publishing short stories and articles for newspapers and magazines, Bill released his first book in 1959. Dark Hell was a war novel which drew on his experiences. He chose one of his middle names for his byline of Duncan Spence, and began a writing career that has seen him adopt many different guises.
“After the first novel, I really wanted to get into Westerns,” he says. “I wrote under the names Jim Bowden, Floyd Rogers and Kirk Ford, and did 30-odd Westerns.”
So, after the war novel came 30 Westerns and then 25 romance novels. That’s 56 novels in 57 years. Makes the rest of us look pretty silly.

Lucy Kellaway of the Financial Times explains how journalists should respond to advertisers, in this case Hewlett Packard, who are “disappointed” with a story and threaten to withdraw their advertising. This happened at Metro in the 1980s. Air New Zealand was annoyed by a big story and cancelled all advertising for – I can’t remember, maybe two years. This was a big deal because it was a small magazine dependent on advertising but we had Warwick Roger as an editor and the owners weren’t a multinational but were brave locals so the attitude was: “Get fucked.”

Kellaway’s first response was mild. She reconsidered, and sent a politely blistering (how English!) follow-up. Quote unquote:
You say the FT management should think about “unacceptable biases” and its relationship with its advertisers. My piece was not biased and I fear you misunderstand our business model. It is my editors’ steadfast refusal to consider the impact of stories on advertisers that makes us the decent newspaper we are.
Camille Paglia – she’s back! – on Hillary Clinton and Gloria Steinem after the New Hampshire vote:
Despite emergency efforts by Gloria Steinem, the crafty dowager empress of feminism, to push a faltering Hillary over the finish line, Sanders overwhelmingly won women’s votes in every category except senior citizens. Last week, when she told TV host Bill Maher that young women supporting the Sanders campaign are just in it to meet boys, Steinem managed not only to insult the intelligence and idealism of the young but to vaporize every lesbian Sanders fan into a spectral non-person.
Steinem’s polished humanitarian mask had slipped, revealing the mummified fascist within. I’m sure that my delight was shared by other dissident feminists everywhere. Never before has the general public, here or abroad, more clearly seen the arrogance and amoral manipulativeness of the power elite who hijacked and stunted second-wave feminism.
We may get to evaluate Ms Steinem for ourselves later this year if the rumours are true that she will visit New Zealand and speak.

So here is Gloria Gaynor with rollerskates:

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