Archive for the ‘literary’ Category
Posted in Book review, Books, Essays and reviews, fantasy, literary, Literary criticism, Literature, mystery novel, New release, Science fiction, writing, tagged Book review, Books, British literature, David Mitchell, fantasy, James Wood, literary fiction, Literature, New release, Science fiction, The Bone Clocks on September 11, 2014 | Leave a Comment »
I’m still pondering James Wood’s rather unenthusiastic review of David Mitchell’s The Bone Clocks.
I read the review about an hour ago and now that I’ve had a chance to shower and clear my head, I’d like to get some thoughts down, try to sum up why I think Mr. Wood—and a number of other critics—have missed the point. Let me make clear, I have nothing against Wood, I think he’s a thoughtful, articulate reviewer, a smart man…I just don’t always agree with him.
There’s a taint, if I can put it like that, to his review, a whiff of innuendo. Mitchell’s a good storyteller, he allows, and The Bone Clocks is admittedly “entertaining”, but…
Well, apparently, The Bone Clocks lacks coherence, there’s a dearth of human significance and, then, near the conclusion of his critique, Mr. Wood finally lets the mask slip and his biases show:
“Gradually, the reader begins to understand that the realism—the human activity—is relatively unimportant…the emphasis is shifted away from the human characters toward the supernatural goings on, and the human characters become mere decoders of the peculiar mystery that has befallen them: detectives of drivel. The fantasy rigs the narrative, so that there is something wearingly formulaic whenever Mitchell stages, as he regularly does, a spot of ‘realistic’ skepticism.”
I’m not sure how much fantastic fiction Mr. Wood has read but he must be aware of some of its noble practitioners, Kafka and Borges, Maupassant and Poe. While Mr. Wood opines that “supernatural” skullduggery detracts from the human story, I wonder if he would say the same thing if he was reading a novel or short story by one of the authors I just cited.
What I like most about Mr. Mitchell’s work is that it refuses to acknowledge genre constraints; he delights in playing with tropes and is fearless about introducing SFnal elements to his narratives, creating a vast and varied universe that astonishes literally at every turn.
Mr. Wood’s final assertion, that The Bone Clocks is a “theological allegory”, reflecting a “bleak Gnosticism” must have made the author laugh out loud.
Really, Mr. Wood?
I suspect David Mitchell’s bookshelves are extensive and a good deal more eclectic than James Wood’s. He (Mitchell) is also of a generation whose childhood was enlivened by tales of the mysterious and macabre, whether in books, movies or on TV. From “Dan Dare” to “Dr. Who”; Lord of the Rings to the magic of Ray Harryhausen. All of those influences going into the creative hopper…and what emerges is a mashup that doesn’t discriminate between “literary” and “genre” fiction, employing elements of both, worshipping at the altar of neither.
Maybe that’s why a number of science fiction scribes I know are less than approving of Mr. Mitchell’s body of work. They think he’s nicking their best material without giving due credit, while some of literary crowd (like James Wood) would accuse him of slumming every time he goes off reservation and presents them with a “bad-faith tussle with a fantastic assailant who has already won”.
I’ll admit, initially I found the supernatural elements in The Bone Clocks a bit off-putting. I’d read no reviews or advance articles on the novel, not wanting to risk spoilers (and you won’t find any in this piece, I promise). The book startled me, intrigued me, then absolutely drew me in. Imagine a collaboration between Jonathan Carroll and Thomas Pynchon, both operating at the top of their form. There are conspiracies and mazes and secret societies and psychic shootouts…but, sorry, I swore I wouldn’t ruin the fun for you.
If The Bone Clocks was a song, it would have “crossover hit” written on it in big, block letters. The novel defies mere description and resists being slotted into any safe, comfortable niche.
Like its author, it is ambitious, ridiculously intelligent, culturally attuned, charming, witty and serenely confident.
David Mitchell is a marvel.
He’s managed to surprise us, yet again.
What a guy.
Posted in Books, capitalism, free reading, independent publisher, independent writing, indie writer, literary, Literature, Poetry, writer, writing, writing life, tagged capitalism, corporate greed, Enron, income inequality, Lehman Brothers, Occupy Movement, one percenters, Poetry, protest poem, Too big to fail, Wall Street on July 8, 2014 | Leave a Comment »
The Algebra of Inequality*
Once they enter the algorithms
consult their computer oracles
assigning dollar value to life & limb
with suitable aplomb
In the boardrooms of corporations
where the wolves run free
who will pay due compensation
for the sheep they slay?
*Title derived from “Report” (short story by Donald Barthelme)
© 2014 Cliff Burns (All Rights Reserved)
Posted in Books, free reading, independent writer, independent writing, indie writing, literary, Literature, Poetry, writer, writing, writing life, tagged Canadian poetry, new poetry, poem, poem on Twitter, short poem, Twitter, verse, writing exercise on April 9, 2012 | Leave a Comment »
Yes, I am on Twitter. It’s easy, it’s fast…what the heck. I’ve even managed to accumulate a few “followers” (love that).
And I try to make it worth their while by occasionally posting some pithy quotes, words of wisdom or original doggerel.
It’s a challenge to fit that 140-character limit but it also helps focus the mind and creates a very worthwhile writing exercise. Here are a couple of my recent efforts:
Winter subsides, withdraws
receding and uncovering
a shivering bareness
raised gooseflesh, a slow blush
spreading to every horizon
That Noir Moment
does it matter how far you fall
once you’ve fallen?
one small step or giant leap
a precipice or merely a pause
this typical paucity
as I try to compel the right words
communicating abject faith
simultaneously making my case for clemency