And say that I think Malcolm Jones’s critique of the Library of America is pretty stupid. I wanted to write something more inflammatory and fun, but E.J. and Nate wisely advised against it.
In case you haven’t read this piece, Jones basically tees-off on the LOA, claiming they’ve “jumped the shark” by publishing sub-par writers and not adhering to their mission:
Here’s how the LOA describes itself and its mission: “The Library of America helps to preserve our nation’s literary heritage by publishing, and keeping in print, authoritative editions of America’s best and most significant writing. An independent nonprofit organization, it was founded in 1979 with seed money from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Ford Foundation.”
What’s really at work in Jones’s diatribe is a filtered exposure of his own aesthetic concept of “best and most significant.” This is sooooooo Newsweek. Obviously, the Jones canon is as predictable as white toast (with special emphasis on white and male), and he’s not a big fan of Philip K. Dick (OK, my blood starts to boil), Nathaniel West, Lovecraft, Dawn Powell. But here’s the moment that really pissed me off:
And then, in May, here comes an entire volume dedicated to . . . Shirley Jackson? A writer mostly famous for one short story, “The Lottery.” Is LOA about to jump the shark?
It’s been a couple years, but I’ll totally stand by We Have Always Lived in the Castle. And I’ll make a random guess that Jones has never read this, or The Haunting of Hill House, both of which are in the prestigious Penguin Classics series . . .
Besides, every good publisher uses its platform to introduce audiences to authors they may not be aware of, or might enjoy being exposed to. What was the fastest selling LOA book in history? The first collection of PKD novels. Why? Perhaps because a lot of readers are sick of the predictable and unchanging “American Canon.” Preserve away LOA. Give me surprises, bind them in elegant black, matching volumes. And cheers to editor Geoffrey O’Brien for taking risks and modernizing an enterprise that could otherwise become insanely insular and staid.
Pedro Zarraluki’s The History of Silence (trans. Nick Caistor and Lorenza García) begins with the narrator and his wife, Irene, setting out to write a book about silence, itself called The History of Silence: “This is the story of how. . .
There are plenty of reasons you can fail to find the rhythm of a book. Sometimes it’s a matter of discarding initial assumptions or impressions, sometimes of resetting oneself. Zigmunds Skujiņš’s Flesh-Coloured Dominoes was a defining experience in the necessity. . .
In a culture that privileges prose, reviewing poetry is fairly pointless. And I’ve long since stopped caring about what the world reads and dropped the crusade to get Americans to read more poems. Part of the fault, as I’ve suggested. . .
I would like to pose the argument that it is rare for one to ever come across a truly passive protagonist in a novel. The protagonist (perhaps) of Three Light-Years, Claudio Viberti, is just that—a shy internist who lives in. . .
The last five days of the eleventh-century Icelandic politician, writer of sagas, and famous murder victim Snorri Sturleleson (the Norwegian spelling, Snorre, is preserved in the book) make up Thorvald Steen’s most recently translated historical fiction, The Little Horse. Murdered. . .
We all know Paris, or at least we think we know it. The Eiffel Tower. The Latin Quarter. The Champs-Élysées. The touristy stuff. In Dominique Fabre’s novel, Guys Like Me, we’re shown a different side of Paris: a gray, decaying. . .
One hundred pages into Birth of a Bridge, the prize-winning novel from French writer Maylis de Kerangal, the narrator describes how starting in November, birds come to nest in the wetlands of the fictional city of Coca, California, for three. . .