fiction files redux discussion

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message 1: by Patrick, photographic eye (new)

Patrick | 133 comments Mod
I just watched again, The Polymath, a documentary about Samuel R. Delany. Jonathan Lethem, an outspoken fanboy when it comes to Delany, had this to say...

"American culture, even American urban culture, even American arts culture has a very violent anti-intellectual streak in it. if you look at the ethos of being a novelist, being a great writer, being a Hemingway or a Faulkner it often includes its own version of this typical American anti-intellectual suspicion. You are meant to be a sort of raw primitive in the sense of a kind of Henry Miller or Jackson Pollock, someone sort of inarticulate and macho. What's striking is how completely, Delany, reverses this for himself. He embraces the whole of intellectual curiosity while remaining committed to an artistic practice. He's a philosophical, confessional and fictional genius. How often is this encountered in American literature. I don't know that there is any precedent. Geniuses are usually mono-maniacs, they do one thing to the utmost. Well, Chip, does several things to the utmost. His essential and most singular asset is that he's multi-faceted. He never saw the boundaries between comic books and high art, literary criticism, autobiography, fiction; he never saw the formal restrictions between narrative and radical textual innovation, typographical innovation, even. He always embraced every contradiction that art offered and made it unified in his work. And his existence in the world is equally disregarding of boundaries. He doesn't see them. And therefore, he makes us see boundaries differently, he makes us question them by his very existence."


message 2: by Elizabeth, bubbles (new)

Elizabeth (RedBrick) | 221 comments Mod
What a love song, Jonathan Lethem! This could be a promising way to kick off a group read. Thanks for typing this in, Patrick; I rolled it around in my mind during 90 minutes of dish washing.


message 3: by Patrick, photographic eye (new)

Patrick | 133 comments Mod
Glad you like it, Elizabeth. I wasn't planning on posting the entire thing. it's long and the mid-section where he lapses into the genius part is somewhat less interesting to me. not that i'd argue he is wrong about Delany, but, genius is just one of those easy, overused terms that starts to lose meaning when tossed around. (i'm guilty myself)

was most curious what others thought about his reference to a "...very violent anti-intellectual streak..." even with American arts and literary culture.


message 4: by Noreen (new)

Noreen | 6 comments Lethem is absolutely right about Delany. He was on a panel at the Center for Fiction in October and he was brilliant. And warm. Also curious, unbelievably kind to the young writers in the room, and quite funny. I'm really looking forward to his new book, which I think he said will be out this spring.


message 5: by Elizabeth, bubbles (new)

Elizabeth (RedBrick) | 221 comments Mod
Greetings, Noreen! Would you recommend a specific place to start? I may not get to it for a while, but I intend to put something on the short list.


message 6: by Noreen (new)

Noreen | 6 comments Hi Elizabeth. I'd go with Babel-17 first. You might be tempted to try Dahlgren first, but it's a hard, hard book, so maybe not the best entry point into Delany's fascinating mind.


message 7: by Patty, free birdeaucrat (new)

Patty | 896 comments Mod
I also have read nothing by Delany! Thanks for the suggestions, Noreen. (I also have never read Lethem. I appear to be quite behind in my reading.)


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