Archive for the ‘Books’ Category

A Challenge

Monday, October 8th, 2007

I’ve been reading in Gene Wolfe’s Shadows of the New Sun, a collection of interviews and some writings on writing. (This is a delightful book for me — I’ve spent years trying to track down some of these interviews in various fanzines and whatnot.) In a 1981 interview, Wolfe muses on the decline of the popularity of poetry:

Poetry is mankind’s oldest literature to retain popularity with a bulldog grip for about 5000 years and the grip has suddenly slipped.

He goes on to say: “I’ll bet you could go through this hotel and not find a person who could name five major living poets.” So, I rose to his challenge, and while it did take me a little while, I did manage to come up with five. (This was a couple days ago, and I keep thinking of more, in what must be the trivia equivalent of esprit d’escalier.) I’m curious to know how others do with this. No time limits, and I leave the notion of “major” to your own discretion.

Two things of scientiphilological note

Monday, September 24th, 2007

First, Michael Swanwick (who hath a blog) wrote a good piece about some of the current movements/subgenres in imaginative fiction, namely new weird, interstitial fiction, and mundane sf. It’s not quite “A User’s Guide to the Postmoderns” but then the SF dialog isn’t quite so fraught right now as it was back in the days of cyberpunk, and it’s as good a summation of these movements as I’ve seen. For whatever reason, we seem to be at a movement-y place in the genre, right now. From a lexicographic standpoint (he says with his eyes cast hopefully toward a 2nd edition of BNW), new weird seems to have the most traction, but I haven’t looked into this deeply yet.

The other thing is an interview with John Clute, regarding his recent book Darkening Garden, which is billed as a lexicon of horror. I haven’t seen it yet, but based on the interview I think I’m going to have to check it out. (Not that I’m not already generally interested in his writing as a matter of course, mind you.) The vocabulary of horror and fantasy criticism seems to be just coming into its own now. (Besides Mr. Clute, Farah Mendlesohn has also done work in this area, although I only know her work second-hand.) Apart from some terms created by J.R.R. Tolkien (subcreation, primary and secondary world), there doesn’t seem to have been much interest in this. I don’t know whether it’s because critics were content with using the standard lit. crit. terminology of myth and romance (a la Northrop Frye) or whether it’s taken this long for fantasy and horror to get any respect in the academy. In the late 60’s – early 70’s, there was a fair amount of interest in pinning down SF (as distinct from fantasy — and often with an air of superiority), and we got some very nice terminology out of it. My favorite might be novum, which was coined by Darko Suvin and which refers to what he calls a “strange newness” — that thing in a story which is different from the reader’s world and which indicates to the reader that the story is science fiction and not mimetic realism. I have my fingers crossed that Mr. Clute’s use of “polder” will catch on — it’s a beautiful term for a central idea in fantasy.

Book art

Thursday, September 20th, 2007

Via Grant, Centripetal Notion has posted images of Brian Dettmer’s book sculptures:

While I’m posting book art, here’s Ralph Gibson’s “Ex Libris” series:

I discovered these some time ago when I read a review (where? who reviews photography books?), and fell in love with these when I found a copy of the book shortly thereafter. (Note to photography book buyers: It’s best to buy a book you think you like immediately; photography books seem to have a remarkably short shelf-life, apparently on par with romance novels.)