Is there such a thing as ‘progress’ in literature?  Now there’s a can of worms.  Can you say, for example, that good books today are necessarily ‘better’ than Moll Flanders, or Pride & Prejudice, or Beowulf?  Still, there is something slightly quaint about old narratives.  There’s at least a bit of awareness, reading them, that […]

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In a story called “The Sandman” by Donald Barthelme there is a fine statement on the state of the artist.  There is no such thing, he says, as a ‘successful artist’ because “The actualization fails to equal, meet, the intuition.  There is something ‘out there’ which cannot be brought ‘here.’”  The fate of the true […]

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I used to find it almost impossible to start a book and not finish it.  You want to know how it turns out, right?  You don’t want to miss out on what may turn into a wonderful read.  Well, my new rule is that bad books don’t get better. Did I just say ‘bad?’  Surely […]

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What makes good fiction?  At some level this is certainly a useless question, as ultimately it boils down to a matter of taste.  There are a great number of people who seem to feel, for instance, that Moby Dick is a great piece of art.  I would like to think that they are basing that […]

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Fortunately, it’s taken me this long to get around to writing about Part II of Connolly’s Enemies of Promise.  Fortunately, because in the meantime I’ve also read his novel Shade Those Laurels.  As you may recall, Part I of Enemies is a sort of a survey or dissection of literary style.  Part II is an […]

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I have just begun Cyril Connolly’s Enemies of Promise, which, like Orwell’s “Inside the Whale,” is an examination of the state of English literature.  In his youth, Connolly was widely supposed to have a great career as a writer before him, but what he became instead, mostly, was a literary critic.  I generally don’t read […]

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