[Guest post by Ruth Franklin:] In Cannes the other day Lars von Trier proved, grossly and witlessly, that no amount of irony can catch up with an expression of sympathy for Hitler and the Nazis. Now a similarly pathetic attempt at cute Holocaust humor has appeared in The Daily Beast. The online publication posted a screed by Dale Peck about the death of the book business in which he complained about the industry’s stagnancy. Peck’s pugnacious style is well known, and was honed in the pages of this magazine.
Blaming the 'Burbs
December 22, 2008
The novel of suburban malaise has been in fashion for as long as people have been commuting from leafy pastures just beyond the city limits. Never mind that the majority of Americans actually live in suburbs (and have therefore voted with their feet in favor of suburbia), American readers are apparently hungry for books that seek to reveal how stultifying that life really is. Rick Moody made his career with The Ice Storm, an account of a Connecticut family’s expensively appointed but empty lives.
Bursting The Thermometer
July 24, 2006
Black Swan Green By David Mitchell (Random House, 294 pp., $23.95) I. 'I liked it." Is there anything less interesting to say about a book? Every negative piece is negative in its own way: we remember with a grim chuckle Mark Twain's enumeration of James Fenimore Cooper's literary offenses ("There have been daring people in the world who claimed that Cooper could write English, but they are all dead now"), or Nabokov's epistolary rebuke of Edmund Wilson ("A patient confidant of his long and hopeless infatuation with the Russian language, I have always done my best to explain to him his mistake
The Moody Blues
July 01, 2002
The Black Veil: A Memoir With Digressions by Rick Moody (Little, Brown, 288 pp., $24.95) Rick Moody is the worst writer of his generation. I apologize for the abruptness of this declaration, its lack of nuance, of any meaning besides the intuitive; but as I made my way through Moody's oeuvre during the past few months I was unable to come up with any other starting point for a consideration of his accomplishment. Or, more accurately, every other starting point that I tried felt disingenuous, nothing more than a way of setting Moody up in order to knock him down.
Abhorring a Vacuum
October 15, 2001
I. If anyone still had a longing for the great American "social novel," the events of September 11 may have corrected it, merely through the reminder of an asymmetry of their own: that whatever the novel gets up to, the "culture" can always get up to something bigger. Ashes defeat garlands. If topicality, relevance, reportage, social comment, preachy presentism, and sidewalk smarts—in sum, the contemporary American novel in its big triumphalist form—are the novel's chosen sport, then the novel will sooner or later be outrun by its own streaking material. The novel may well be, as Stendhal wrot