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Showing posts from September, 2019

The Narrative of Dead Narrative

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Suddenly, it feels like post-war France again. Two essays were published within days of each other, both denouncing something they call narrative: "Narrative in the Anthropocene Is the Enemy" by Roy Scranton at LitHub and "Storytelling and Forgetfulness" by Amit Chaudhuri at LA Review of Books. Is the nouveau roman back in vogue?

Neither essay is especially illuminating or compelling, I don't think, but it's interesting that they both appeared so close together and from such different writers, with quite different purposes. That fact (their synchronicity) more than anything else is what caught my attention. What work, I wondered, is the concept they call narrative doing within these essays?

In his essay, Roy Scranton is doing what he's known for, a shtick that was provocative when Learning to Die in the Anthropocene was published and Scranton positioned himself as the Norman O. Brown of the anthropocene, but which now is getting a little bit thread…

The Flint Anchor by Sylvia Townsend Warner

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For decades now, scholars and connoisseurs have declared Sylvia Townsend Warner to be an unjustly — even criminally — neglected writer. Every time it seems like she might gain the attention she deserves (at her death in 1978, with various posthumous collections of stories and letters, with the publication of biographies, with the reprinting of her books by Virago and then New York Review of Books), the attention doesn't seem to last. Appreciations appear (thoughtful, considered) ... and then Warner seems to return to obscurity. There's a Sylvia Townsend Warner Society, but as of this writing its website is unreachable.

While I hope the recent reissue of The Corner That Held Them by NYRB will spark an excited revival of interest in Warner's work — especially her short stories of the '50s and '60s, which show Warner at the height of her craft, unpredictable and frequently stunning — I know better than to hold my breath. Though her work offers many pleasures, much of…