Thursday, September 21, 2017

Lillian Ross

Lillian Ross passed away, and I learned this from social media due to numerous shares of this excellent piece on Ernest Hemingway which I happened to chance upon and read in full a summer or two ago.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

the state of ponzi

Also, this week The New York Times covered the plight immigrants who bought taxi medallions in New York City in the years before Uber and other ride-hailing apps moved in, and found that their investments have lost such value so quickly that's it's nearly impossible to break even or survive at all.

I should say that in both cases, Florida housing and New York ride services, although neither is entirely unlike a ponzi scheme, there's a difference between buying at or near a bubble's top and a ponzi scheme as traditionally understood. I imagine that in America in 2017, we are accustomed to various unfortunates facing financial ruin due to the rapid rise and fall of prices.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Not Only On Moral Fiction

As has been reported here, reading John Gardner's Mickelsson's Ghosts led to my return to writing novels and from there, through effort and luck I was able to publish one, and then two, but Gardner was never my favorite writer. Based upon my reading of that one long acclaimed novel, he was fundamentally sound and usually interesting, but the book was not on the same level as Thomas Pynchon's Gravity's Rainbow, Saul Bellow's The Adventures of Augie March, or John Barth's The Sot-Weed Factor. I once read an interview where Gardner placed himself in a big three, which possibly included Pynchon and Norman Mailer, I can't remember exactly, but this wasn't evident to me from reading Mickelsson's Ghosts. The novel trended toward realism, but for American realism, I prefer Richard Yates's Revolutionary Road, John Updike's Rabbit is Rich, Fred Exley's A Fan's Notes (I think of it as such), and several others. Gardner did have wider range than all of these writers though, working as a scholar and teacher even as he produced in many different genres although to the best of my knowledge none were what we would call "genre fiction."

Everyone knows that Gardner was the first to mentor Raymond Carver, but before reading this new piece in The Paris Review, I was unaware that he also taught greats like Charles Johnson and Toni Morrison. And the final motorcycle ride off the road makes it seem as if he was a far badder dude than writers like Bellow and Morrison who aged gracefully in the comfort and security that we imagine prestigious tenure lines ensure. I suppose that would have been Gardner's destiny too if he had lived. But he died at 49, only a year older than I am now. The Paris Review article mentions that he has remained "on the syllabus," although I've only read On Moral Fiction for a class. In twenty years of teaching literature classes, the majority of which were for Gardner's period (American, after 1945), I've never assigned any of his fiction, and I think I've only seen Grendel and On Moral Fiction assigned by others. (It's possible that Bellow, Barth, John Updike, and a few others have done even more of a disappearing act. I'm not sure.) The only time I've ever discussed Gardner, I'm almost certain, was in the context of his lending a hand to a young Raymond Carver, janitor, who needed quiet office space. Gardner was there for many other writers.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

it's a catastrophe


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