Friday, 14 October 2005

So Now You Care About Literature; or, Suddenly Everyone's Illiterati [If you've arrived here via Daily Kos, I urge you to read this once you've finished with this post.] Today Harold Pinter won the Nobel Prize in Literature .... and now everyone cares about the written word again. "Now it's become the Ignobel Prize, says one commenter so sure his fellows will miss his pun he feels compelled to add "[sic] is intentional." Another acknowledges that no one "takes this stuff seriously anymore. I can't remember the last time I read a literary novel by a living writer or attended a play by a living playwright." Others remains unconcerned about this sudden upswell of interest in matters literary: in the immortal words of "GoatGuy"—or as he's known in his native Mexico, el chupacabra—no matter how many Nobels some people places on their mantles, "we are protected from runaway liberalism by the very real revolution in interpersonal and distributed communications, just such as this BLOG." Some, however, still care enough about poetry to examine the work they condemn. As Pinter's "American Football" memes arounds certain comment sections, "Carolyn" declares it unworthy of a Nobel because her "son could have done that when he was 10 years old and I would have washed his mouth out with soap." Only a true poetic soul like Carolyn could birth a son so gifted in the poetic arts that, at the tender age of ten, he was capable of penning these immortal lines: We blew the shit right back up their own ass And out their fucking ears. Pinter's award inspires a poetic response from the well-known poet Mark Coffey of Decision '08: A fool, yes… A jackass I am called Yet awards, I win them And nothing’s left but this stale bowl of Fruit Loops Pain Money Dreams Chomsky! My destiny awaits. (Just think: Mark Coffey will never get those three hours back.) Such sweet prosody I expected from Carolyn's foul-mouthed poetic prodigy, but from Mark Coffey? How can so many so patently blessed remain so anonymous? How many mute inglorious Mark Coffeys must we bury before acknowledging the provinciate artistry of Nobel winners? When will the poetry of the 21st Century manifest itself in full? When will the drama of the 21st Century fly off the shelves at the speed of Dan Brown?
History Carnival, Issue #18 [I apologize to those who wanted nothing more than to start Saturday morning with a cup of coffee and an epic History Carnival. Don't blame me. Blame Kos.] This installment of the History Carnival opens with Laura James' brilliant post on the "The Lost Art of Writing True Crime Headlines." I would quote selections from it, but her post is cut of a single cloth and should be read as such. Or maybe I'm upset with Laura. Maybe I just don't want to quote from her post. Maybe I hold a grudge against her for having to spend the past week sleeping on the couch. "HEADLESS BODY FOUND IN TOPLESS BAR"? It could have been anybody. Where's Hugh Dod when you need him? (Sharon mumbles something) Dead three hundred years now? Really? (more mumblings) Right then. On with the Carnival! Jamie reports on rampant postwar British randiness. Said BBC Magazine commenter Darren: "My nan reguarly gets tipsy at christmas and proceeds to inform the entire family about all the American soldiers she 'had' during the war." On an entirely unrelated note, Natalie Bennett unearths a wartime article from Good Housekeeping urging "All Thinking Women" to make "home life so warm and full and rich that husbands, sons, daughters, wherever they may be, even if miles away, will feel its call stronger and more compelling than any temptation." Why? "The toll of V.D. must be arrested, and it is we wives and mothers who can do much to help." If all else fails, there's always the desert: John McKay examines the contours of T.E. Lawrence' s recently discovered vision for the Middle East and wonders how the border disputes of the 21st Century would have looked through Lawrence's eyes. Sepoy recounts the journey through the desert to Lawrence (and his eyes') immediate left in a post about Hassanein Pasha and Rosita Forbes' travels through the Sahara. I recommend this entry despite Sepoy's reluctance to dish how long grazing camels can go without water. Thanks to PK, however, those long weeks of studying German will finally pay dividends. Copy of George the Farmer's (nee Georgicus Agricola nee George Bauer) De Re Metallica in hand, I'm likely to take my place among the greatest medieval metallurgists of all time any day now. I may not know how more kilometers I can get beforing refreshing my camel, but at least I'll be able to enrich a mean ore. But what will I do with it? How about some old-fashioned imperial expansion? K.M. Lawson demonstrates the importance of working from multiple sources by means of an extended dialogue between various histories about the Japanese annexation of Korea. That the Japanese annexed a country in possession of a perfect alphabet (according to Language Log) is quite the technological achievement. There may not seem to be any hard and fast connection between military prowess and an alphabet with no subphonemic distinctions, but that's only because there aren't any. Or are there? No, there really aren't. But that...

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