My second foray into the Continuum Contemporaries series of Continuum Books (on which more to come): I had already pick...moreDiscerning into the white noise
My second foray into the Continuum Contemporaries series of Continuum Books (on which more to come): I had already picked up the brilliant and neatly-packed guide to Underworld, written by DeLillo scholar John Duvall.
It is obvious that Underworld and White Noise are wildly different novels in terms of scope, complexity and sheer volume, and while any reading of the former is necessarily partial, Leonard Orr was able to analyze in depth every aspect of DeLillo's 'breakthrough' novel. Following a brief overview of the writer's career before-and-after WN, Orr delves into every single theme: Family; Death and Fear; Commmodities, Consumerism, Commercial, Waste; White Noise; American Environments; Hitler and Fascism; Media and Technology; Simulacra. By the end you'll have discovered that White Noise is much more complex than you'd have thought...
As I said I'm already familiar with this series of literary guides, always well-made and very resourceful. Despite the small size (a distinctive feature of the imprint) these guides are very neatly tailored and packed with brilliant, no-nonsense academical criticism. The only inconvenience is that the less-than-100-pages limit often forces the writer to mention other essays in passing; and while this is obviously standard practice in any critical work, here it becomes at times little more than a hyperlink.
On Continuum Books I discovered this publisher by sheer chance, while looking for academic texts on Underworld (see above). Meanwhile I stumbled, on a complete tangent & again by a fortuitous mishap which I'll spare you, on the fantastic, habit-inducing 33⅓ series of musical guides. I mean, folks, take a look at their catalogue: http://33third.blogspot.com/p/complet...… And then be ready to find out that that was just a small portion of Continuum Books HUGE output: http://www.continuumbooks.com/ I discovered only yesterday their New Series on Contemporary North American Fiction: three major works by a single author, from 1990 onward, analyzed at once. Again, a curious format coupled with razor-sharp academic research and top-tier source material. They've just published, just over a month ago, one on DeLillo. Mao II, Underworld, Falling Man: http://bit.ly/dWGjo5 I'm hooked. I'm doomed.
"I call this fish an attempt at a whale". (Moby Dick, ch. 55)
Un libro delizioso, sorretto da una prosa originale & seducente. Ho l'impressione ch...more"I call this fish an attempt at a whale". (Moby Dick, ch. 55)
Un libro delizioso, sorretto da una prosa originale & seducente. Ho l'impressione che se dovessi scrivere un libro sarebbe molto simile a questo, per spirito, tono, uso delle fonti. Ma questo non interessa a nessuno.
Il casus belli è Una tazza di mare in tempesta, lo spettacolo che Roberto Abbiati ha tratto da Moby Dick, quasi suo malgrado, come risultato dell'accumulo di piccoli manufatti ricavati da oggetti di seconda mano: quello che ne deriva è uno spettacolo di 15 minuti, da rappresentarsi dentro una (apposita, ci mancherebbe) scatola, per 15 spettatori alla volta. Una riduzione radicale del capodoglio melvilliano.
Ma prima di arrivare a parlare dello spettacolo Codignola, irresistibile divagatore, ci accompagna in un lungo excursus sulla narrativa in miniatura, sulle storie più brevi mai raccontate. Scordandosi (volontariamente?) di menzionare il peraltro celebre romanzo in sei parole di Hemingway: "For sale: baby shoes, never worn". E poi ancora tutte le produzioni artistiche ispirate a vario titolo a Moby Dick, dalle illustrazioni di Rockwell Kent al film (ovviamente abortito) di Orson Welles, le riduzioni, &c. Ogni volta con le ulteriori divagazioni del caso.
Solo nella seconda parte del libro (aperta da una citazione di Tom Waits che mi ha definitivamente confermato di aver trovato uno spirito affine) Codignola ci porta a teatro, ovvero nella scatola, per raccontarci la messa in scena di Abbiati. Che per l'occasione illustra il tutto con disegni deliziosi. Lo spettacolo è analizzato scena per scena, con tanto di durata in minuti e secondi.
La delicatezza, la sapienza scenica e narrativa di Abbiati sono disarmanti; facile immaginare perché Codignola si sia fatto ammaliare dal suo spettacolo. E perché abbia deciso di tenergli testa.
In time this has become my favourite play of his, to the extent that I'd read it for the 4th/5th time rather than pick up a fresh one. Quite short, ve...moreIn time this has become my favourite play of his, to the extent that I'd read it for the 4th/5th time rather than pick up a fresh one. Quite short, very dense. Critical readings usually underline the colonial aspects of the play, which only makes sense if you're teaching EFL to a roomful of teens. Obviously more interesting is the discourse on creation, art-making, ποιήσις. Prospero as the puppet-master may remind one of the duke in Measure for Measure.
Fantastic out-at-sea opening.
This is also his only play (along with MND, ça va sans dire) to feature magic & fairies, which is reason enough as far as I'm concerned.(less)
One of the most interesting collection of essays on DeLillo I've read so far, and I've read a few; possibly the most intriguing, and all the more impr...moreOne of the most interesting collection of essays on DeLillo I've read so far, and I've read a few; possibly the most intriguing, and all the more impressing for being the work of a single critic. Mr Osteen, I'm impressed. The final chapter on Underworld is, I don't know, almost too good. Tight, neat, razor sharp, not once boring in 50 pages, thoroughly so-fucking-brilliant. Did you realize the novel had so many layers, so many possible interpretations? I didn't, either. Jeez.
The book, published in 2000, analyzes all of DeLillo's work up to that point:
ch. 1 early short stories and Americana ch. 2 End Zone and Great Jones St. ch. 3 Ratner's Star (with diagrams!) ch. 4 Running Dog and The Names ch. 5 Players and Libra ch. 6 White Noise ch. 7 Mao II ch. 8 Underworld(less)
Inizialmente ero un po' stizzito per il tono troppo 'orale' (cf. capitolo sulle metafore), poi ho capito che Palandri, di persona come sulla pagina, r...moreInizialmente ero un po' stizzito per il tono troppo 'orale' (cf. capitolo sulle metafore), poi ho capito che Palandri, di persona come sulla pagina, riesce sempre a mantenere una sua levità. Questa raccolta di saggi traccia un interessante percorso a ritroso nella letteratura italiana, da Tondelli (coetaneo & amico di Palandri, che già gli aveva dedicato "Pier") fino a Nievo e Leopardi. A volte il tono diventa personale, ma sarebbe ridicolo & forse anche ipocrita fingere di non aver conosciuto gli autori in questione. All'esame io ho portato proprio Celati, che era stato insegnante di un'intera generazione della Bologna del '77: oltre a Palandri, ai suoi corsi c'erano Pazienza, Freak Antoni...
Avrei voluto chiedergli come si coniugano, in un testo come questo, le esperienze personali con le analisi critica. Ma l'esame era molto affollato & dovrò tornare da lui un'altra volta!(less)
Sometimes collected essays are a disappointment. (a good example is Harold Bloom's Modern Critical Views volume on DeLillo: http://bit.ly/bFOvcn altho...moreSometimes collected essays are a disappointment. (a good example is Harold Bloom's Modern Critical Views volume on DeLillo: http://bit.ly/bFOvcn although I suspect in this case the problem is mainly Bloom's personal disappointment with DeLillo as a wannabe Pynchon. No hard feelings, Harold). Sometimes the authors seem coerced into it & would gladly be writing about something else. Or simply can't write.
Luckily, the 13 essays* collected here are all very good, and the last three are excellent. I'm tempted to spoil some of the best intuitions contained herein. There are, namely, two essays on DeLillo AND Pynchon. The good thing is that you can jump to the end of the volume without spoiling the fun; but I would suggest following the given order & moving from close reading to general overview. I wish 'modern critical views' were written & assembled with such intelligence, attention & dedication more often.
* any reference to a certain obsession in the novel is purely willful. (less)
Considerare le Norton Lectures come il testamento di Calvino è una tentazione, poiché è l'ultimo testo su cui lui lavorò; tanto che rimasero incompiut...moreConsiderare le Norton Lectures come il testamento di Calvino è una tentazione, poiché è l'ultimo testo su cui lui lavorò; tanto che rimasero incompiute, e i Six Memos progettati sono in realtà cinque. Inoltre la morte di Calvino all'inizio di quell'anno accademico 1985-6 impedì che le lezioni venissero tenute ad Harvard, come previsto.
Delle cinque conferenze la terza, al centro dell'opera, è forse la meno riuscita; non a caso tratta dell'aspetto dello stile calviniano che più spesso viene considerato un difetto, ovvero la combinatoria arida, astratta. La mia preferita invece, se non la migliore, è la prima, sulla leggerezza: una caratteristica prettamente (e consapevolmente) calviniana, a cui l'autore era molto sensibile. Questi cinque saggi orfani sono una splendida lettura ed una testimonianza della qualità della scrittura calviniana, oltre che dell'attualità & importanza del suo pensiero critico.
(questa copia l'ho restituita alla biblioteca, ma presto ne comprerò una tutta mia...)(less)
Il libriccino presenta le tesi che Baudrillard riprenderà successivamente nei tre saggi di Power Inferno, del 2002: http://bit.ly/eAf098 (a onor di cro...moreIl libriccino presenta le tesi che Baudrillard riprenderà successivamente nei tre saggi di Power Inferno, del 2002: http://bit.ly/eAf098 (a onor di cronaca, ho recensito anche quello).
Questo scritto invece comparì inizialmente su Le Monde il 3 novembre 2001, nemmeno due mesi dopo l'11 settembre: il che spiega forse l'urgenza notata da altri, anche se quello che mi colpisce è che subito dopo l'attacco, mentre molti si riempivano la bocca di stupidaggini & propaganda (do you remember?), Baudrillard avesse già elaborato quella che a tutt'oggi rimane l'interpretazione più lucida dell'accaduto. Consigliatissimo, PRIMA di Power Inferno. (less)
Are all the monographies in this series so good? I wish all monographies were. Concise, clear, sharp, well-written. Makes me yearn for more,...moreUnderworded
Are all the monographies in this series so good? I wish all monographies were. Concise, clear, sharp, well-written. Makes me yearn for more, and it would get 4 stars if only it were longer. Although, even short as it is, the author at times gives the impression of having done all the thinking for the reader.
I stumbled upon this anthology entirely by chance, while browsing the department catalogue for texts on cyberpunk. Given my long-term obsession with p...moreI stumbled upon this anthology entirely by chance, while browsing the department catalogue for texts on cyberpunk. Given my long-term obsession with postmodern Anglo-American fiction, I was already familiar with Larry McCaffery’s critical work and his tireless enthusiasm for each successive wave of contemporary writers. I’d consulted his Avant-Pop anthology http://bit.ly/dEZe3g repeatedly, more delighted by his own theorizations than by any of the contributions featured. But Storming the Reality Studio, I would argue, is still his best effort to date: way more relevant, challenging, and just plain interesting. Which can perhaps only be stated in retrospect: the avant-pop label did never really stuck, while ‘cyberpunk’ is still a vital category more than a dozen years later (spawning the post-cyberpunk wave and an exhilarating string of –punk undercurrents: steampunk, dieselpunk, atompunk).
The anthology is divided in two parts: Fiction and Poetry / Non-Fiction. Most of the fiction is made up of (usually brief) novels excerpts rather than independent short stories; there are also comics by Jim O’Barr of The Crow fame, illustrations by one Ferret and even poetry by Rob Hardin and Misha. Cyberpunk poetry! Needless to say, the gotha of the movement presides in full regalia, joined by such slipstream authors as Burroughs, Pynchon, DeLillo, Acker, Leyner and Vollman. And yet, unlike other cyberpunk anthologies, e.g. Mirroshades or Gibson’s short-story collection Burning Chrome, this book is crucially constituted for more than half of its bulk by essays. And that’s exactly its major asset, at least for would-be academics like Yours Truly. Contributions by all sharp-edge theorists of the postmodern are featured: Baudrillard, Derrida, Lyotard, and obviously Jameson, along with more specific and cyberpunk-related material. There’s a 20-page interview McCaffery conducted with William Gibson (a must for all aficionados), from which we learn, for instance, that Gibson did not own a computer till after the publication of Neuromancer. Dig it: the groundwork for a whole poetics of the cyber age was laid by a guy who, by his own admission, had absolutely no idea what a computer was like! Within each section of the book contributions are arranged in alphabetical order by the author’s last name. Which as a completely arbitrary setting works as well as any other, and even creates curious and effective results: Steve Brown’s personal, non-academic account of his first-hand experience as an inside member of the burgeoning literary movement later known as cyberpunk comes before the heady stuff; McCaffery’s own material is smack in the middle; while Sterling’s canonical “Preface from Mirrorshades” is placed towards the end, coming after various essays that expand upon Sterling’s own declarations—so that by the time you get there, the classic cyberpunk manifesto has acquired several new layers of meaning.
Many of the essays had already appeared in Mississippi Review 47/48 (1998), a special feature on cyberpunk edited by none other than McCaffery himself, which “probably marked the beginning of academia’s serious consideration of the cyberpunk aesthetic”. Storming the Reality Studio is but a re-edited and expanded version of MR 47/48. cf. streettech.com: http://bit.ly/eixKF8 and http://bit.ly/fQlcs0 But the reworking in book form brought radical changes. While MR 47/48 was only focused on cyberpunk proper, Storming the Reality Studio offers a new and much more daring thesis; namely, the convergence of two previously unrelated currents in postmodern literature:
● Postmodern science-fiction, i.e. cyberpunk. ● Quasi-SF texts by avantgarde writers (historically Burroughs and Pynchon, more recently Kathy Acker, Don DeLillo and Ted Mooney), superposing mainstream and genre fiction, i.e. Sterling’s slipstream narrative.
A classic, made all the more appealing by Derek Jacobi's lovely inflection. Plus this is actually my first audiobook: usually I prefer audioshortstories!
Passion, studies and eventually work have always led to my reading mostly fiction. Often I've felt in need of some scientific divulgation for a change. And given my long-standing fascination for astronomy, I thought starting from the basics would be a good idea!
One of my favourite passages is taken from ch. 12, "Conventions and Natural Laws":
If people were to learn to conceive the world in a new way, without the old notion of 'force', it would alter not only their physical imagination but probably also their morals and politics. In the Newtonian theory of the solar system the sun seems like a monarch, whose behest the planets have to obey. In the Einstenian world there is more individualism and less governement than in the Newtonian. There is also far less hassle: lazyness is the fundamental law of the Einstenian universe.
Groovy. According to aNobii, this is the abridged version. Owning (the Italian translation of) the complete and updated edition, my take on this point is "so much the better": the additions do not add much really and, if anything, they lessen the beauty and power of Russell's spare, clear prose. This gem is recommended to all lovers of science and audiobooks alike!(less)