What makes Alfred Hitchcock such an inescapable figure in film history and criticism? And when we talk about Hitchcock, are we talking about the man behind the camera or the mind moving in the image?
The Sometime Seminar talks about Alfred Hitchcock: The Man Who Knew Too Much (2015), a brief artistic biography of Alfred Hitchcock by our friend Michael Wood.
How much repetition-with-variation does it take to turn a schtick into a genre? What elevates trashy horror pulp to the stature of GREAT trashy horror pulp? And if we know that the thing behind the door is an eldritch horror from the nameless depths, just like the last hundred things behind the last hundred doors, why do we always open the door anyway?
The Sometime Seminar discusses the seminal science-fictional horror weirdness of H.P. Lovecraft, with a look at the 1927 story “The Colour out of Space” and a general discussion of the rest of the Lovecraft oeuvre. (This story can be found in the Call of Cthulhu volume of Penguin’s definitive edition of Lovecraft’s stories.)
Come for the elegantly hilarious descriptions of horrible food, terrible people and repulsive decor; stay for the razor-sharp psychological and socio-historical analyses.
The Sometime Seminar discusses Great Granny Webster (1977) by Caroline Blackwood, a short novel of family history.
THRILL as stock genre trappings warp and mutate under the power of weird genius! MARVEL as brains-in-a-vat reality paranoia crosses over into theology and metaphysics! WONDER as interplanetary travel and communication with the dead are outstripped in strangeness by the mysteries of…The Commodity Form!
The Sometime Seminar discusses the metaphysical science-fiction novel Ubik (1969) by Philip K. Dick.
Hypercathected expressionism faces off against freewheeling shaggy-doggitude in a titanic battle of tones! Which will triumph, the elephant or the termite?
The Sometime Seminar discusses the film adaptation of the Pynchon novel Inherent Vice (2014) by Paul Thomas Anderson.
How much of our talk about books is really about books? Is reading just skimming by another name? And if our relationship to books is largely based on selective memories and private reimaginations anyway, why not skip the reading and go straight to the reimagining?
The Sometime Seminar discusses How to Talk About Books You Haven’t Read (2007) by Pierre Bayard, an essay in contrarian irreverence that’s also a surprisingly thoughtful meditation on the phenomenology and social psychology of reading.
The Sometime Seminar discusses late-modernist novella With My Dog Eyes (Portuguese 1986/English 2014) by Hilda Hilst.
If a book has good qualities A, B and C, but has been wildly lauded for its bad qualities X, Y and Z, is it still okay to like it? If you scratch a Bourdieuvian disenchanter, will you find a Victorian self-improver?
The Sometime Seminar discusses Carl Wilson’s popular book on Céline Dion and taste, Let’s Talk About Love: A Journey to the End of Taste (first published 2007, expanded edition 2014 under the subtitle Why Other People Have Such Bad Taste).
The Sometime Seminar discusses Vanity Fair (1848), a sprawling comic novel of social climbing and falling by William Makepeace Thackeray.
Topics covered include: Stereotyping, racial, social, and/or comedic — Cynicism and world-weariness, the politics of — Codes of sexual taboo and prurience, the narrative effects of — Repugnant worldviews, their palatability when expressed in comic form — Narrative exclusion, the form and politics of — Historical fiction, the Oedipal politics of
(As usual, spoiler warning: our discussion naturally covers much of the novel’s plot.)
Project Gutenberg has a free electronic text of Vanity Fair, but it is very poorly edited; we recommend buying a real edition.
Supplemental links: John Sutherland on Thackeray’s racism
Can a book with a moon-base in it be science fiction, but not because of the moon-base? If an interesting narrative structure combined with thoughtful, well-rounded characterization in a setting rich with recent history don’t make a novel “literary,” what would? And is “super Sophie’s Choice” a silly, point-missing blurb even if Ursula K. Le Guin wrote it?