Monthly Archives: November 2006

Three posts on literary fiction and genre fiction

Three posts on the supposed opposition of literary fiction vs genre fiction (the links point towards and were not there in the original posts):

“If you’re like me and it’s only enjoyment you seek from books (no, I’m not kidding), you might assume Stephen King’s novels are right up your street. Millions seem to enjoy them. But “enjoyment” is just a label. To be shared, it has to be unpacked. Otherwise it remains a cliché, the sort of thing you’ll find filling Stephen King novels. —Stephen King on Desert Island from This Space

“When I was a teenager I read everything [by Stephen King] and he has profoundly shaped my literary sensiblity, for better or worse. But I haven’t read a thing by him for nigh on 15 years, I’ll wager. … What do you think about genre fiction as “work that eschews moral ambiguity, narrative experimentation, verbal nuance and depth of characterization for such “‘lowbrow’ ” considerations as story, suspense and obvious readability.” It’s not really a proper definition because it actually doesn’t say anything about – well, genre, which really ought to be shoehorned in somewhere. But never mind that. Even a proper definition of ‘genre fiction’ will tend to include ‘metafiction’ as a subvariety. — Metafiction from Conversational Reading

“As always in populist screeds such as this, the primary target of ire is the “canon-maker-wannabes” in universities. The professors have told an “official story of postwar American fiction [that] recoiled entirely from the Gold Medal writers.” They’ve withheld their markers of “respectable culture.” Putting aside the fact that writers who valorized “sensationalism and sleaze” probably were never looking for the approval of “respectable culture,” MB really ought to take a closer look at what academic critics are actually up to these days. Contemporary literature has been a substantial part of the literary ccurriculum for only about 30 years, and “scholars” of contemporary literature have long since abandoned a gatekeeping role, anyway. Breaking the canon–in this case before it was even clearly established–is much more popular than making it.” —The Content and Form of American Fiction-Writing from The Reading Experience

I’ve read lots of Stephen King’s book when I was travelling in South East Asia when I was in my mid twenties. At the time I was a huge Stephen King fan, I still think regularly of novels such as The Stand and It. It’s been a while since I’ve read Stephen King (apart from his treatise on the nature of horror Danse Macabre last summer. (which again, I liked)) So yes, I am a Stephen King fan, and Stephen King has become a defining figure in my canon. And as such I find it hard to respect people such as Harold Bloom who state that:

“[Stephen King] is a man who writes what used to be called penny dreadfuls. That they could believe that there is any literary value there or any aesthetic accomplishment or signs of an inventive human intelligence is simply a testimony to their own idiocy.” – Harold Bloom, 1993.

Perhaps most interesting to Jahsonic readers is the original Michael Blowhard post to which the Reading Experience responds, because it perfectly illustrates the intimate link between ‘high’ and ‘low’ culture we have termed nobrow:

“To illustrate, let me connect a few dots. French New Wave titans Jean-Luc Godard and François Truffaut both loved Gold Medal books, and both based films on novels by Gold Medal authors: Godard’s “Pierrot le Fou” was based on a novel by Lionel White; Truffaut based “Shoot the Piano Player” on a novel by David Goodis. By the way, did you realize that Godard based “Made in USA” on a novel by Donald Westlake? Hey, I see that Donald Westlake wrote a few books for Gold Medal himself.” —Michael Blowhard

One more reflection: This debate – between the merits of genre fiction vs. literary fiction – does not seem to take place in the realm of cinema. One seldom hears of comparisons of genre films vs. art films. There seems to be no issue of artistic hierarchy in cinema. How come?

The Arcades Project arrived in the mail today

Walter Benjamin’s The Arcades Project (1927 – 1940) arrived in the mail today. See my entry at Jahsonic as well as my previous blog entry.

The first thing to catch my eye was this Coetzee review on the back cover:

“[The Arcades Project] suggests a new way of writing about a civilization using its rubbish as materials rather than its artworks: history from below rather than above. And [Benjamin’s] call elsewhere for a history centered on the sufferings of the vanquished, rather than on the achievements of the victors, is prophetic of the way in which history writing has begun to think of itself in our lifetime…”What does The Arcades Project have to offer? The briefest of lists would include: a treasure hoard of curious information about Paris, a multitude of thought-provoking questions, the harvest of an acute and idiosyncratic mind’s trawl through thousands of books, succinct observations, polished to a high aphoristic sheen, on a range of subjects…and glimpses of Benjamin toying with a new way of seeing himself: as a compiler of a ‘magic encyclopedia’…[A] magnificent opus.”
–J. M. Coetzee, The Guardian

More appraisals from Harvard University Press

Heaven is where the police are British, the cooks

Furthering my post on national stereotypes I present you a joke related to the subject:

“Heaven is where the police are British, the cooks are French, the mechanics are German, the lovers are Italian and it is all organised by the Swiss. Hell is where the police are German, the cooks are English, the mechanics are French, the lovers are Swiss, and it is all organised by the Italians”. [Nov 2006]

See also: volksgeist

Update May 25, 2011: Found the source, this joke supposedly is from record tycoon Ahmet Ertegun of Atlantic Records, first attested in a 1982 Google Books record[1]:


Carnography (from latin “carnis” meaning “meat” and Greek grafi “writing”) is a neologism for writing, films, images, or other material that contains gratuitous amounts of bloodshed, violence and/or weaponry. It is named by analogy to pornography (although it is often mistaken for a portmanteau of “carnage” and “pornography”, this is not strictly the case), and is sometimes referred to as “violence porn”.

The mere depiction of violent acts, or of their results, does not necessarily qualify a film as carnography, just as the mere depiction of sex acts does not necessarily qualify a film as pornography. — [Nov 2006]

See also: exploitativesensationalismviolenceaestheticization of violencerepresentationdepiction

I have discovered a haunted house in the midst of London

A friend of mine, who is a man of letters and a philosopher, said to me one day, as if between jest and earnest,–” Fancy! since we last met, I have discovered a haunted house in the midst of London.”

“Really haunted?–and by what? ghosts?”

“Well, I can’t answer that question; all I know is this–six weeks ago my wife and I were in search of a furnished apartment. Passing a quiet street, we saw on the window of one of the houses a bill, ‘Apartments Furnished.’ The situation suited us: we entered the house–liked the rooms–engaged them by the week–and left them the third day. No power on earth could have reconciled my wife to stay longer; and I don’t wonder at it.” —The House and the Brain, also know as The Haunted and the Haunters (1857) by Lord Edward Bulwer-Lytton via here.

Lytton is famous for his cliché first sentence: “It was a dark and stormy night”

See also: hauntedhorror fiction1857

Larry Levan MP3s

Via analog giant:

Mp3: Joubert Singers – “Stand of the Word” (Levan Remix)
Mp3: Grace Jones – “Pull Up to the Bumper” (Levan Garage Remix)
Mp3: Inner Life – “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” (Levan 12″ Mix)
Mp3: Chaka Khan – “Tearin‘ It Up” (Levan Mix)

Pay special attention to Ain’t No Mountain High Enough‘ (1981), especially the break. Vocals are by Jocelyn ‘Somebody Else’s Guy’ Brown, mix by Larry Levan, keys by Michael De Benedictus.

Another Jocelyn fave is ‘Make It Last Forever’ (1979).

Larry Levan produced over 70 remixes. To me his best record is the Padlock EP (1983).

More info on the Joubert track here.

Slavoj Žižek and the chicken joke

Slavoj Žižek (1949 – ) and the chicken joke from a recent lecture by Žižek:

Materialist interest in theology: materialists are the only true believers. A Lacanian joke is used to illustrate the nature of belief: a man is admitted to a psychiatric facility because he thinks he is a seed of grain: after much time, he no longer believes this and re-enters the outside world: but he immediately returns, trembling with fear because he thinks a large chicken is after him: the doctors say, “but you know that you are not a seed of grain”: “yes,” says the man, “but does the chicken know that?” —The Unquiet Grave

What is hauntology?

Spending time on Padraig’s Subject-barred brought the concept of hauntology to my attention via this piece titled The Gramophone’s Technological Uncanny which furthers Mark K-Punk’s investigation of sonic hauntology. In its origins hauntology is Jacques Derrida‘s neologism which is, in French, a pun on ontology and refers to, in the words of the Halflives website: “the paradoxical state of the specter, which is neither being nor non-being.”

Besides by K-Punk (here in a piece on Kubrick), hauntology is also used by Simon Reynolds here and by Woebot here.

No doubt the term goes back 1848 when Marx and Engels stated “A spectre is haunting Europe, the spectre of Communism.” Haunting is about ghosts, and one of the first people to use the word haunting in a musical context was David Toop’s Haunted Weather : Music, Silence, and Memory (2004).

About four weeks ago, The Existence Machine also wondered just what is hauntology.

K-Punk thinks this is a good summary of the concept.

Someone wrote an Wikipedia entry on hauntology in October of 2006 but it was deleted by consensus. It finally passed Wikipedia stringent notability criteria in August 2007.

See hauntology at artandpop.

New David Lynch film

Subject-barred goes by the name of $. The blog is one of the more enigmatic ones on the web. I first found him via his transcript of Zizek’s The Pervert’s Guide to Cinema (2006). Subject-barred now presents a short video “Without cheese there wouldn’t be an INLAND EMPIRE,” recorded by two guys who “made/accidentally-captured this 2-minute video – of Lynch in a suitably bizarre “performance art” promotion of his latest film on a Hollywood sidewalk – sound like the two guys from the Black-Book office scene/massacre in Lynch’s Mulholland Dr …”. –subject-barred