Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Minority report

I. Levi Stahl on "the minor T.E. Lawrence":

After the [translation of] Odyssey, Lawrence put in good order a compilation of poems he had liked over the years: Minorities, consisting, with his typical taste for paradox, of minor works by major poets, or major work by minor poets.

II. Another recent L.S. post ("William Dean Howells and the pleasures of the minor writer" ) quotes from Indian Summer:

"Oh, call us a passage from a modern novel," suggested Colville, "if you're in the romantic mood. One of Mr. James's."

"Don't you think we ought to be rather more of the great world for that? I hardly feel up to Mr. James. I should have said Howells. Only nothing happens in that case!"

(Fictional characters talking about their creators! Some other examples, aside from Don Quixote?)

(Ah...just remembered this other "Indian Summer"...)(Remember "MySpace"?!)

III. Levi's posts reminded me that I accumulated an unusual amount of notes for my Poetry Foundation article from last year, "Minor Poets, Major Works"—notes that I wound up not using. Why not post some of them here?

5. In Bookforum, Geoff Dyer considers Thomas Bernhard’s My Prizes: “[W]hat a great idea, to offer slivers of autobiography in the guise of self-deprecating moan-boasts about all the honor-insults heaped on one’s head! So much so that one wonders, while reading these outbursts, if it’s not the well-established forms of literary expression—big novels with vast roll calls of characters, enacting the big themes of life and fate, war and peace—but the minor ones, forms that are not even recognized as such, that offer the most challenging test of literary genius.” [BF Sept/Oct/Nov 2010]

Minor applies to form. (Caples mentions the novelist Edgar Saltus, who wrote a 40-pager entitled Oscar Wilde, An Idler’s Impressions—“a puffed-out account of a man he only met twice.”)[22]

6. Minor or major? B.R. Myers begins his scorched-earth Atlantic review of Jonathan Franzen’s Freedom like this: “One opens a new novel and is promptly introduced to some dull minor characters. Tiring of them, one skims ahead to meet the leads, only to realize: those minor characters are the leads.”

9. In Hungary in the 10th century: “People saw bright spherical objects shining like stars, along with a bright torch, moving to and fro in the sky.”

9.[sic] This is a notebook, a minor form. But some of my favorite books are notebooks, diaries, correspondence, collections of columns and reviews. The Nabokov-Wilson Letters. The Weight of the World. Psychotic Reactions and Carburetor Dung. Literature that doesn’t realize it's literature.

12. Most writers live under no illusion of being major. Or is that just me? Even writers whose books invariably land on the bestseller list must know how few _______.

13. One of the appeals of the minor is that we are even reading it—that gives one hope for our own _______.

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Blogger Quailty said...

re: #6: could the same be said of A Dance to the Music of Time? And in so doing, get at some of what's great about the novel?

12:50 PM  
Blogger Ed Park said...

Yes! Though I would remove the description "dull"...

12:55 PM  

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