Monday, 03 July 2006

New Data Effortlessly Adhere to Old Certainties; or, Freud as Unreliable Narrator [Note: This post is composed of all natural American prose. Un-American "wits" with poetic souls must seek their solace elsewhere.] Brace yourself: Frederick Crew's Follies of the Wise opens with an anti-psychoanalytic screed. A couple of them, actually. It should come as no surprise that I'm sympathetic to his systematic dismantling of psychoanalytic claims to truth or continued relevance. (Note to Jonathan: I've already linked to that site.) What I find odd is that someone with the reputation I have has been asked to review this book for a decidedly pro-psychoanalytic journal. Does the editor believe that the narrative I share with Crews will reduce my review to the banal prattlings of the also unindoctrinated? Or does he believe Crews characteristic vehemence is something I'll rightly shy away from given the esteem the humanities afford psychoanalysis. What about neither? I'm undecided. But I must admit that reading Crews has been an enlightening stroll down memory lane. How so? I'm glad I asked: Way, way back in the long, long ago, the Little Womedievalist and I worked at a used bookstore directly off the LSU campus. That "directly" is no empty modifier, you see, because the close of each semester inaugurated The Great Influx of course materials the campus bookstore refused to repatriate. I gobbled up those discarded course books like canned-fruit on the eve of nuclear winter. No potentially useful pamphlet, tome or pamphlet-quality tome escaped my clutches. I read them all. And I did so with a criminally uncritical eye. I took it all at its face as only a 20 year old, budding intellectual can. The best days of my life–stop giggling, I mean it–I spent in cornershop cafés reading and re-reading Freud and Lacan while the Little Womedievalist studied Sanskrit. It was a moment of remarkable freedom, both economically and intellectually. We were working in a used bookstore, spending our money on books and coffee, and preparing to go to our respective graduate institutions with the enthusiastic naïveté of prospective graduate students. On the days we didn't work, we would drive to a deserted coffee hut, hunker down and spend seven or eight eager hours devouring the material we thought we'd have to master. Life was good. We had the shakes but our faith remained intact. Mine did, at least. The Little Womedievalist had a healthy skepticism about psychoanalytic truth claims from the get-go. (Do you realize how many subsequent arguments I could win were she unable to play that card?) The point being: Crews is right. My infatuation with Freud resembles honest intellectual work as much as my marriage resembles my first infatuation. I possessed a shallow but empowering knowledge, what Crews calls "instant depth." Psychoanalytic thinkers imagine bland positivism the only alternative to psychoanalysis, but I question their familiarity with those alternatives. For that matter, I question my own. But I don't consider my ignorance convincing proof of that argument. I was duped, plain and simple, and reading Crews reminds me of the pain accompanying...
Literature Today: A Link Dump Like No Other Some regular readers who don't regularly read the Valve asked why I'm not x-posting my literary link dumps. Since I couldn't muster much of a response, I caved. (Don't worry, I have another post planned for the evening, and it is something else, I tell you, something else.) I. Thanks to the passage of time, terrorism is now an acceptable novelistic subject. Just don’t make it Middle Eastern terrorism, because according to Brad Thor, “We’re getting Islamic terrorist fatigue.” Harper Lee, 80, returns to the public eye old: “[In] an abundant society where people have laptops, cellphones, iPods and minds like empty rooms, I still plod along with books. I prefer to search library stacks because when I work to learn something, I remember it.” Film novelization is a dying art, and that’s a shame, because “Quadrophenia [was] surprisingly good.” Realism must embrace fundamentalism or risk losing its license. The remains Sophia, Nathaniel and Una Hawthorne all repose now in Concord. “It’s very emotional,” explains Imogen Howe, “They know now in spirit that everyone is reunited.” Being dead, Sophia, Nathaniel and Una were unavailable for comment. Few in Macondo Aracataca care about Gabriel Garcia-Marquez. Or they’re unpersuaded that a town he hasn’t visited in 20 years can bank on his name. Finally, the announcement of my new project, an attempt to create an abstract database for literary scholars. II. This week on Bill Moyer’s Faith & Reason: Salman Rushdie. (Check local listings.) Future episodes to include Martin Amis, Margaret Atwood, Mary Gordon, David Grossman, Colin McGinn, Richard Rodriguez, Anne Provoost, Will Power and Jeanette Winterson. Complaints against clumsy literary erotica mount. David Morrell, Canadian author of First Blood and holder of a Ph.D. in American Literature from Penn State, won the 2005 Bram Stoker Award for Best Novel for Creepers. (Stephen King thinks him “chilling and hypnotically readable.” Frank Gado, reviewing John Barth: An Introduction, disagrees.) Malawi must seek beyond its borders for quality literature, says MacMillan’s Constantine Simwaka: “Most Malawians are not creative enough to produce works that may attract the youth to read more.” Publishers are determined to bring bling to literature. “Mental Case,” whose real name is Sal Dizzal, attributes the genre’s anticipated success to the fact that “People like to hear and read about where they come from, and the public [in general] wants to hear the gangster folklore.” Harry Potter is the source of Latin mania across the UK. If you enjoyed that story, you may also find “violence“ and “changes to waste disposal“ of interest. From beyond the grave, Chesteron continues to win converts. III. Time magazine demands answers, slackers: “Who is the Voice of Your Generation?” Has he or she been unjustly neglected? An impoverished idiot complains about literary theory’s infiltration of the Fed. From literary theory to Critical Race Theory, yet she still likes T.S. Eliot. Homer is a woman, maybe: The idea of a woman writing The Iliad and not being bored out of her mind by the endless fighting and...

Become a Fan

Recent Comments