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Showing posts from September, 2016

The Schooldays of Jesus by J.M. Coetzee: Preliminary Notes

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Whenever I write about a new Coetzee book, I am wary. I think back to what I wrote in 2005 about Slow Man when it was new, and I cringe. On the one hand, I'm glad to have this record of a first encounter; on the other, the inadequacies of a first encounter with a new Coetzee novel are immense. (With Slow Man, I learned this vividly a few months later after the book wouldn't stop haunting me, and I reread it, and it was a different book, one I had learned to read only after reading it.) The first sentence of my 2008 Diary of a Bad Year post is: "This is a book that will need to be reread." For the next book, Summertime (2009), I didn't write anything until I could spend time thinking and re-thinking it, particularly as it was the final part of a trilogy of fictionalish autobiographies; I first wrote about it in my Conversational Reading essay on Coetzee and autobiography.

For The Childhood of Jesus (2013), I returned to recording my initial impressions, but clear…

Of Moral Panics, Education, Culture Wars, and Unanswerable Holes

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I demonstrate hope.
Or the hope for hope. Or just more unanswerable holes.
Mary Biddinger, "Beatitudes"
(I keep writing and rewriting this post.)
I thought I knew what I felt about the academic controversy du jour (a letter sent by a University of Chicago dean to incoming students, telling them not to expect trigger warnings, that academia is not a safe space, that open discussion requires them to listen to speakers they disagree with, etc.) — but I kept writing and rewriting, conversing and re-conversing with friends, and every time I didn't know more than I knew before.
Overall, I don't think this controversy is about trigger warnings, safe spaces, etc. Overall, I think it is about power and access to power. But then, overall I think most controversies are about power and access to power.
Overall—
The questions around trigger warnings, safe spaces, and campus speakers are complicated, and specific situations must be paid attention to, because universal, general statem…

Of Moral Panics, Education, Culture Wars, and Unanswerable Holes

Image
I demonstrate hope.
Or the hope for hope. Or just more unanswerable holes.
Mary Biddinger, "Beatitudes"
(I keep writing and rewriting this post.)
I thought I knew what I felt about the academic controversy du jour (a letter sent by a University of Chicago dean to incoming students, telling them not to expect trigger warnings, that academia is not a safe space, that open discussion requires them to listen to speakers they disagree with, etc.) — but I kept writing and rewriting, conversing and re-conversing with friends, and every time I didn't know more than I knew before.
Overall, I don't think this controversy is about trigger warnings, safe spaces, etc. Overall, I think it is about power and access to power. But then, overall I think most controversies are about power and access to power.
Overall—
The questions around trigger warnings, safe spaces, and campus speakers are complicated, and specific situations must be paid attention to, because universal, general statem…

Why I Am Not a Poet

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I have a brief new essay up at The Story Prize Blog, "Why I Am Not a Poet". Here's a taste:
I care about words, structures, rhythms, resonances, patterns, allusions, borrowings, sentences, images, emotions, voices, dreams, realities, fears, anxieties, failures, yearnings, and much more, but I don't really care about telling stories. The story is a kind of vehicle, or maybe an excuse, or maybe an alibi. The conventions of the story can be followed and forsaken in ways that get me to the other things, the things I care about.

All of those things I care about are things common to poetry — some more common to poetry than to prose, I'd bet — and that is why I read poetry, but even though I read poetry, I write prose because I just don't know how to do those things unless I'm writing prose.

(I think I would rather be a poet, but I am not.)Continue reading at The Story Prize Blog.