If you cram enough occasional criticism into a volume, will an aesthetic theory emerge? How far can you go as a critic with a gift for attention, a way with adjectives, a love of unsubordinated details and a healthy contempt for self-inflation? (Pretty far, it turns out!)
The Sometime Seminar discusses the film criticism of Manny Farber (1940s–1980s), collected in Farber on Film (2009).
It’s a late-Victorian triple-decker novel about the poor souls who write late-Victorian triple-decker novels and the psychosocial tightropes they walk (or plummet from) while doing so. Plus thrilling rooftop adventures!
The Sometime Seminar discusses New Grub Street (1891), a novel of struggling writers by George Gissing.
Supplemental links: “An Outburst on Gissing” (1920) by Douglas Goldring is an entertaining rant against Gissing’s style.
Note on e-texts: None of the electronic editions of New Grub Street that we examined were any better edited than Project Gutenberg’s, unfortunately. The Modern Library and Oxford World’s Classics commercial versions were riddled with errors.
An anthology of American chicaneries, an allegory of human nature and its dubious trustworthiness, a virtuoso feat of metafictional irony, and/or the shaggiest shaggy-dog story you’ve ever read.
The Sometime Seminar discusses The Confidence-Man: His Masquerade (1857), a satiric fiction by Herman Melville.
The Sometime Seminar discusses Sartor Resartus (1836), a satiric novel about a fictional German philosopher by Thomas Carlyle.
How to re-estrange and re-enchant the most familiar stories in the world? Apply generous quantities of sexual drama, stylistic brilliance, emotional intensity and psychological complexity, and don’t forget to be a genius.
The Sometime Seminar discusses The Bloody Chamber (1979), a collection of short stories which retell or rework folk tales, by Angela Carter.
Do kids these days look at their phones all the time because they’ve lost touch with their inner selves, or is the world around them in fact really boring? If you heap up enough observations about a social phenomenon, will an analysis of that phenomenon automatically emerge? Is pop social science just a set of rituals to exorcise anxiety? And what’s so scary about communications technology, anyway?
The Sometime Seminar discusses Reclaiming Conversation: The Power of Talk in a Digital Age (2015) by Sherry Turkle, a book expressing and documenting widespread cultural anxieties about the social effects of social networking and mobile networked technology.
The Sometime Seminar discusses Nazi Literature in the Americas (La literatura Nazi en América, 1996/English 2008), an encyclopedia of fictional authors by Roberto Bolaño.
Genre as shtick, genre as turf, genre as obsession, genre as addiction…how far into the purple depths of verbiage will one man go in pursuit of that dread-stricken shudder?
The Sometime Seminar discusses Grimscribe (1991), a collection of horror stories by Thomas Ligotti.
With a language-mystical murder cult and a spy thriller lurking somewhere in the background, an adultery plot about a group of American corporate travelers abroad, and a lot of amorphous intellectual conversations, it’s a high-concept novel whose occasional incoherence is either charmingly postmodern or a bit on the shambolic side… or maybe both?
The Sometime Seminar discusses The Names (1982) by Don DeLillo.