Critical Linking: August 20, 2012


In its evocations of supper-table ennui, angst imperfectly corralled by the picket fence, wisteria without and hysteria within, that ideal American existence always hanging a yard or two out of reach, this is Cheever country – The Wapshot Chronicle was published only a year before – but far less pregnant with material threat, far more unobtrusively existential (to go back to Heppenstall and the concerns of the post-war nouveau roman) and, in some of its incidental dialogue, well-nigh rococo.”

What becomes a modern classic most? D. J. Taylor considers several, including the aforementioned Mr. and Mrs. Bridge by Evan S. Connell, and notes the things that might disqualify them, if not for…


“…if you spend time in the literary Twitter- or blogospheres, you’ll be positively besieged by amiability, by a relentless enthusiasm that might have you believing that all new books are wonderful and that every writer is every other writer’s biggest fan. It’s not only shallow, it’s untrue, and it’s having a chilling effect on literary culture, creating an environment where writers are vaunted for their personal biographies or their online followings rather than for their work on the page.”

Slate’s Jacob Silverman seems to assign a great deal of importance to what happens in social media re literature. Sales departments at the Big Six might not agree. Is it that this “enthusiasm” is “relentless,” or is it that we’re paying more attention to it than we otherwise might in a culture that’s lost a great deal of its literary mojo?


“She declared herself her favorite living author and Written on the Body the best book of the year. She upstaged other authors at readings. She showed up on the doorstep of a critic who gave her a bad review, leather-clad and ‘literally roaring,’ in Winterson’s own account. ‘About 1992 I should have had an operation to sew up my mouth, and kept it closed till about 1997,’ Winterson told the Guardian a few years ago. “

Jeanette Winterson may be so difficult to understand, writes Hannah Tennant-Moore, because she’s attempting to make the most difficult kind of art: Fiction that punches through an all-too-transparent grid of reality.