09 November 2010

Catching Up, Once Again

This semester of teaching (at two schools) has pretty well kept me away from the blog here, but things are beginning to even out, and I should be able to return to my regularly irregular posting in the next few weeks.  I will probably even soon be able to reply to that email you sent me.  For now, though, some quick notes...
  • I've now finished reading Gabriel Josipovici's What Ever Happened to Modernism?, and will start writing a review of it for Rain Taxi very soon (I'm only about a month late on that...)  I found the book provocative, fascinating, and enlightening, but even if I hadn't, I think I'd be amazed at how stupid many of the reviews of it have been (the link is to The Complete Review's roundup; their own review is not one I agree with, but though I don't think it's up to their normal standard, it's not awful).  I won't address this in the review I write, since it doesn't seem appropriate, but I'll say it here: I don't think some of the negative reviewers actually read the book.  They certainly didn't read it carefully, and many seemed to read while having an axe in hand, ready for grinding.  Mark Thwaite addressed the problem back in September, and Stephen Mitchelmore further responded to it last month (in a blog post that I seem to need to link to at least once a week -- Mitchelmore and I are really different sorts of readers, I think, but that post alone is enough to make me grateful for the blogosphere).  When I started reading What Ever Happened to Modernism, I was ready to believe that some of the negative reviewers had misconstrued some of its arguments or maybe missed some of its subtleties, but the more I read and the more I then compared what I read to the reviews, the more I was aghast at how much was missed.  Many reviewers seemed to have read not the book but a problematic piece in The Guardian, which Josipovici has denounced.  (At least D.J. Taylor apologized, though he still called the book "horribly partial and wrong-headed", revealing himself to be both a pot and a kettle.)  It's true that Josipovici doesn't have much use for Martin Amis, Ian McEwen, Julian Barnes, and some of the other more prominent British writers of the last few decades, but his discussion of this is not a major portion of the book, and he tempers it with such statements as, "But I realise that this may be largely because of who and what I am."  He praises William Golding and Muriel Spark, he writes marvelously about music and visual art, his discussions of Wordsworth showed me ways to enjoy a poet whose wonders had previously eluded me, and he pointed me toward a book I'm now reading with wonder, Farewell to an Idea by T.J. Clark.  And now that I've written more than I intended to about What Ever Happened to Modernism here, it's time to get to work on that review...
  • Josipovici's admiration for William Golding was not news to me, because he's sung Golding's praises before, but I read his latest comments on Golding at roughly the same time as I watched the Criterion Collection DVD of Lord of the Flies, with a commentary by Peter Brook that is among the most enlightening commentary tracks I've encountered.  I worship Peter Brook, so I'm biased, but though I had seen the movie quite a few times (it's one of the few cases where I love both the book and film), I'd never listened to the commentary.  It provides not just good information about how the film was made, but also, as is typical of Brook, a philosophy of art.  The additional comments of producer Lewis Allen, director of photography Tom Hollyman, and cameraman/editor Gerald Feil add context and provide a fine glimpse of Brook's working methods.
I think I had other things to write about here, but they are slipping my mind, and time is short...

1 comment:

  1. Huh. The "problem that had long puzzled" Josipovici was precisely -- like precisely, except for some name-swapping which sharpens the point, like Joyce for Mann and Beckett for Bernhard -- what led me to start looking into science fiction in 1976. (And eventually led me here, of course.)

    From what I've read of Josipovici, I suspect he arrived at different answers than myself.

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