Friday, July 10, 2009

Canon-bashing bashed

Via Bookslut, which lavishly praises this literature site The Second Pass, we find their list of books that ought to be ditched from The Canon. I'm willing to grant that White Noise, however amusing, is overrated (though judging whether it's "funny" by whether there are any "laughs" suggests a level of appreciation better suited to Jim Carrey movies than to literature). And I haven't read some of the titles. But some of the criticisms are just absurd.

Absalom, Absalom!: "festering bushels of dud coinages, Biblical bluster, and diarrheal sentences that do nothing but draw attention to their over-toasted ornamentation." Oh wait, the book sounds like Faulkner. Having read aloud a good portion of AA, I can say that Faulkner's prose works if you will listen to it rather than skim it. And the trivial "what it's about" misses completely the book's overarching subject, the South's original sin of slavery and the corruption it worked. Sounding like a bored freshman frat-rat is not the way to criticize Faulkner's masterpiece.

The Rainbow: Not enough sex, but "a long section on the early marital squabbles of young Will and Anna Brangwen, 40 pages in which the two struggle and storm within themselves and almost nothing actually happens. In the rest of the book, which spans some 65 years, other characters make their way onstage to storm and struggle and do next to nothing." Good lord. Lawrence breaks into his characters' souls and lays out on his page levels of emotion and conflict that a century of Victorian novelists scarcely guessed at, and we are told that nothing happens. Guess what: if you have no feelings and no soul, nothing will ever happen to you, no matter what you do or whom you fuck.

Jacob's Room: Whoever gave them the idea that Jacob's Room was in The Canon in the first place? Did they think that was an automatic result of being published in Penguin Classics? The book is a fairly dreary experiment with stream-of-consciousness after the tedious social-comedy realism of Night and Day, and a journeyman's labor that set up Woolf for her real additions to the canon, Dalloway - Lighthouse - Waves. It's like they wanted to bash some Woolf novel and this is the one they found bashable.

1 comment:

  1. Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet. Matthew 7:6.

    Some would argue that Cliff's Note's are a primary source.