Saturday, April 07, 2007

Why Genre Fiction? --Why Not?

Almost a week ago, I quoted a paragraph from Cormac McCarthy to give an example of what's missing from a diet solely composed of genre fiction. But genre fiction tugs at me like the moon tugs on the ocean. Why? Here's as good an explanation as any I've seen:

After all, quite a few literary masterpieces spend much of their turgid wordage being almost as contrived as any crime novel you’ve ever raced through. On page 13 of my edition of “The Wings of the Dove,” Kate Croy is waiting for her father to appear: “He had not at present come down from his room, which she knew to be above the one they were in.” But of course she knew that, knew it so well that she wouldn’t have to think about it; she is thinking about it only so that she can tell us. If a narrative is going to be as clumsy as that, can’t it have some guns?
From "Blood on the Borders," by Clive James.

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Thursday, April 05, 2007

About Those Darned Monkeys Typing Out Shakespeare ...

Lest you think the history of the typewriter would be a yawner, know this: the machine was invented on at least 52 separate occasions over two centuries. this isn't necessarily an argument for running out and buying such a history, but you might enjoy Joan Acocella's review of one in the current New Yorker. My favorite excerpt:

Wershler-Henry does not confine himself to human users of the typewriter. He also tells us about monkeys, as in the hypothetical question “If you put a bunch of monkeys in front of typewriters, how long would it take them to compose the works of Shakespeare?” This question originated as part of the theory of probability, and it has been tested. According to Wershler-Henry, the world record for Shakespeare-reinvention belongs to the virtual monkeys supervised by Dan Oliver, of Scottsdale, Arizona. On August 4, 2004, after the group had worked for 42,162,500,000 billion billion monkey years, one of Oliver’s monkeys typed, “VALENTINE. Cease toIdor:eFLP0FRjWK78aXzVOwm)-‘;8.t . . .,” the first nineteen characters of which can be found in “The Two Gentlemen of Verona.” Runner-up teams have produced eighteen characters from “Timon of Athens,” seventeen from “Troilus and Cressida,” and sixteen from “Richard II.” Did these monkeys get federal funding?

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Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Was the Death Star Attack an Inside Job?

What a great send-up of conspiracy theorists. It goes on too long, but its point is dead-on.

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Sunday, April 01, 2007

Cormac McCarthy Shows Why You Can't Live on Thrillers and Cheap Mysteries Alone

From Cormac McCarthy's Suttree:

In the toils of orgasm -- she said, she said -- she'd be whelmed in a warm green sea through which, dulled by the murk of it, pass a series of small suns like the footlights of a revolving stage, an electric carousel wheeling in a green ether. Envy's color is the color of her pleasuring, and what is the color of grief? Is it black as they say? And anger always red? The color of that sad shade of ennui called blue is blue but blue unlike the sky or sea, a bitter blue, rue-tinged, discolored at the edges. The color of a blind man's noon is white, and is his nighttime too? And does he feel it with his skin like a fish? Does he have blues, are they bridal and serene, or yellows, sunlike or urinous, does he remember? Neural colors like the fleeting tones of dreams. The color of this life is water.

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