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/lit/ Literature

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Anonymous 2013-04-17 16:09:37 No.3666508

[Missing image file: WTFisThisShit.png]

I've just been reading Don DeLillo's "Underworld" and am struck by how right B. R. Myers was when he wrote in his "Reader's Manifesto" a few years back that "a young reader's foray into literature shouldn't have to end - for want of better advice - on the third page of something like (this book)".

I really did have to stop on page 3, when I got to this:

"He picks up speed and seems to lose his gangliness, the slouchy funk of hormones and unbelonging and all the stammering things that seal his adolescence. He is just a running boy, but the way running reveals some clue to being, the way a runner bares himself to consciousness, this is how the bloodrush of a dozen strides brings him into eloquence;"

It seems to me that this could almost have been written DELIBERATELY to bear out all Myers's damning criticisms of contemporary 'literary prose" and the way it just tries TOO DAMN HARD to sound "writerly" and full of unique poetic insights that only a "writer" could have.
The first part does that by just jumbling a lot of fairly routine and predictable descriptive terms into an odd sequence and combination that strikes the (inattentive) reader as somehow "insightful".

"The slouchy funk of hormones and unbelonging and all the stammering things that seal his adolescence":

Untwist all the strained poetic crinks and kinks that DeLillo has put in that and all you have is the dull, obvious:

"He was a teenager, so he was troubled by his hormones, had a tendency to slouch, stammered, and felt he didn't belong."

As to the second part about the "runner baring himself to consciousness" I just have NO idea what the fuck THAT is supposed to mean AT ALL. It is an image that has about as much resonance with me as would the image of "the guy using the Coca-Cola dispenser baring himself to consciousness". Maybe I don't know running - or maybe it's just some "literary prose" virtuoso screeching "Look at me! Look at me!"

Comments or contradictions?


>>
Anonymous 2013-04-17 16:14:46 No.3666516
I think he's referring to how we sometimes 'lose ourselves' in an activity, like running.

>>
Anonymous 2013-04-17 16:14:56 No.3666517
Plenty of genre prose is tripe, yeah. This includes the "literary" genre.

>>
Anonymous 2013-04-17 16:21:30 No.3666526
>>3666516
Well, that's my point. Obviously, "He is just a running boy, but a boy completely lost in his running" wouldn't have been "poetic" and "startling" enough for DeLillo. It wouldn't have made the reader say "Wow, these WRITERS certainly do open up new perspectives for little old narrow blinkered me"..
But in actual fact there is little more to it than what you say.
If you haven't read B:R. Myers's essay

http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2001/07/a-readers-manifesto/302270/

he really is spot-on about these things

>>
Anonymous 2013-04-17 16:26:27 No.3666533
>>3666526
Maybe there's quite a bit to it. The experience of losing yourself is a very significant one, there are a couple religions that aim for it.

>>
Anonymous 2013-04-17 16:35:09 No.3666545
>>3666533
Sure, I'm not contesting that. I'm not even denying that the act of running might have its "religious" aspect.
All I'm questioning is whether the hugely sonorous and portentous phrases - "bares himself to cosciousness", "brings him into eloquence" - that DeLillo uses to express this idea are really necessary.

>>
Anonymous 2013-04-17 17:00:06 No.3666586
>>3666508
Part of the charm of literary fiction is the difficulty. Too much ease and the reader can become passive and disengaged. What good literary fiction does is try to use language in a.different way and shake our understanding of our perceptions. That said, some efforts work better than others and this isn't great stuff.

>>
Anonymous 2013-04-17 17:31:42 No.3666670
>>3666586
The trick, though, is to be skilled and patient enough to actually discover certain loci in reality that demand a certain disruption in the normal use of language: "Ostranennie", I believe the Russian Formalist critics called it.
The sign of BAD literary prose, I think, is this impatience and over-ambition when it comes to this precious "strangeness" that defines "the literary" per se.
I think poetry can sin in this respect as often as prose and the first example of "forced strangeness" that really annoyed me were the lines from Dylan Thomas's late virtuosic poem "Fern Hill" where he writes about
"The spellbound horses walking warm,
Out of the whinnying stable
Onto the fields of praise;"
Thomas had a huge reputation as a "champion wordsmith" to defend and you can tell that, at this point, he was just getting lazy and turning into someone who was running through his "role" on auto-pilot.
"The whinnying horses walking warm out of the stable..."
would have been nowhere near "Dylan-Thomas-y" enough for his needs at the time, although that is actually the only possible MEANING of the image he sets to paper.
So he "makes it strange" by arbitrarily shifting the word "whinnying" over from the horses to the stable.
That doesn't really alter or enrich the image in any way. If the stable is somehow "whinnying" that could only possibly be because it is full of horses; To talk about a stable "whinnying" ITSELF is just silly, not poetic.
But the flim-flammery with the adjectives makes the whole sequence so much more "strange" and "poetic".
DeLillo is as much of a theatrical caricature of a "great writer" as Thomas was of a "great poet" when he tries to evoke adolescence with a jumble of impossible adjective-noun combinations such as "slouchy funk of hormones" rather than just contenting himself with listing the dull, familiar properties of the adolescent in a dull, familiar order : "he slouches, he's often in a funk, and his hormones are playing up"

>>
Anonymous 2013-04-17 23:56:49 No.3667813
op is a fag







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