At 10:35 on an early summer's morning, John Lanchester sat down at his study desk, switched on his new Dell computer, opened up the word processing programme that the computer had come with and began

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Because I didn't want to clutter up the What Are You Reading thread with the way this book perpetually perks its folly in my face.

Fizzles, Friday, 9 March 2012 11:18 (eight years ago) link

On a rainy morning in early December, an 82-year-old woman sat in her front room at 42 Pepys Road, looking out at the street through a lace curtain. Her name was Petunia Howe...

Don't be absurd! Also, reader wonders whether she is distantly or even closely related to Geoffrey.

The proprietor of 51 Pepys Road, the house across the road from Petunia Howe's, was at work in the City of London. Roger Yount sat at his office desk at his bank, Pinker Lloyd, doing sums.

I hope you're already getting a sense of fatigue at the toiling rhythm and progress of his sentences, the way he leaves nothing to chance.

It was late afternoon. Roger sat on one of the sofas in his office,

Stop telling me the time of day.

Ahmed Kamal, who owned the shop (sorry thomp) at the end of Pepys Road, number 68, came awake 3.59 in the morning, one minute before his alarm was set to go off.

Please stop telling me the time of day. Also - came awake?

Shahid Kamal, who was due to work a shift at the family shop between eight o'clock in the morning and six o'clock in the evening, walked down the street at a brisk clip.

ffs

At number 51 Pepys Road, Mrs Arabella Yount...

At ten o'clock Shahid was stacking...

Two weeks before Christmas, Petunia sat...

I've reached Part 2. Things are going to start happening!

Fizzles, Friday, 9 March 2012 11:19 (eight years ago) link

You can't buy this sort of publicity. Will read (this thread).

Ismael Klata, Friday, 9 March 2012 11:23 (eight years ago) link

Didn't bring the book with me today, of course.

Fizzles, Friday, 9 March 2012 11:29 (eight years ago) link

I was on the verge of ordering this yesterday, will hold off on that one then.

Homosexual Satan Wasp (Matt DC), Friday, 9 March 2012 11:47 (eight years ago) link

Can tell you the characters of course.

You just have to insert ffs or 'oh god' after each one:

Petunia Howe - an octogenarian lady who notices how young people like doctors are etc.

Roger and Arabella Yount - a wealthy banker and his wife who likes shopping and spas and says 'dahling'.

Quentina Mkfesi BSc MSc - a Zimbabwean refugee (escaping political death squads), who can't be deported, and who has a job as a traffic warden.

'Bogdan' Zbigniew (can't remember his surname) - a Polish builder who is saving up money to give to his father back in Poland. He saves this money up by playing the stock market (??).

Ahmed, Usman, and Shahid. Brothers who collectively run a corner shop. Shahid has dabbled in terrorism, and a shady terrorist friend from his past has just appeared on the scene. Goes to a militant mosque in Brixton. Can't remember what Usman does.

Freddy Kamo(!) - Young African footballer with lanky legs (Lanchester is an Arsenal fan right?) who plays for a thinly disguised Chelsea. Always smiling. Stern father.

Smitty - a 'concept' artist, who leaves anonymous graffiti around the place, and who Lanchester somehow manages to get talking in a faux faux-Cockney/Mockney.

All of these behave exactly as you'd imagine they'd behave if you a) had no imagination b) got all your information from Sunday Supplements/daytime tv? apart from 'surprising' gestures towards 'civilised' or nuanced (ie white male) thinking.

Fizzles, Friday, 9 March 2012 11:49 (eight years ago) link

read you talking about this in the reading thread and am glad this hilarious spin-off exists

Nultified Ancients of Man U (Noodle Vague), Friday, 9 March 2012 11:53 (eight years ago) link

Why isn't there a racist taxi driver? I demand a racist taxi driver.

Homosexual Satan Wasp (Matt DC), Friday, 9 March 2012 11:53 (eight years ago) link

further comments from here, Matt. Just couldn't be bothered to cnp them all in.

Fizzles, Friday, 9 March 2012 11:54 (eight years ago) link

Ah, with Lanchester the 'racist taxi driver' would in fact be a surprisingly tolerant racist taxi driver who has a copy of the Economist on the front shelf of his taximetered cabriolet.

Fizzles, Friday, 9 March 2012 11:55 (eight years ago) link

Q. Is the problem with "state of the nation" novels usually that they are written by people far removed from most of the nation?

Nultified Ancients of Man U (Noodle Vague), Friday, 9 March 2012 11:56 (eight years ago) link

Q. I though Lanchester's steez was a kind of sub-Banville aestheticism. Wtf was he thinking?

Nultified Ancients of Man U (Noodle Vague), Friday, 9 March 2012 11:57 (eight years ago) link

A little surprised there are no media types, unless that's Smitty's role of course. There should also be a harassed woman juggling kids with running some sort of poorly-funded third-sector body.

Ismael Klata, Friday, 9 March 2012 11:58 (eight years ago) link

Must have fancied it after everyone loved Whoops!, I guess. Once you're thinking 'I get bankers, I've talked to a lot of bankers', and you've written abt London property, it must be p much irresistible to write a 'city of do-you-see contrasts' novel.

woof, Friday, 9 March 2012 12:12 (eight years ago) link

Also - came awake?

It's when someone has a nocturnal emission so violent that it wakes them up.
The cover of this book annoys me the way the cover of 'Cloud Atlas' does.

Is there any detailed exposition of what bankers actually do, other than having three computer screens? Ian McEwan, even if being tedious, would always have some of this to redeem it.

Ismael Klata, Friday, 9 March 2012 12:19 (eight years ago) link

xpost to NV.

thomp p much nailed The Debt to Pleasure on the what are you reading thread - 'debt to pleasure' = would maybe have like to have been nabokov when it grew up, narrator has poisoned some dudes, envies his brother's career as chef, is self-described gourmand, presents memoir of dudes he has poisoned as a series of menus. it's aight i guess.

Problems with this state of the nation novel, with a star by problems that I think are possibly generic pitfalls:

The characters attempt to be 'representative' and of course are pure ciphers and representative of nothing.*

Lanchester isn't very good, in fact is very very bad at filling his book with material.

The need to fill your book with situations that, again, are representative, makes it feel like satireless satire.*(unless its actual satire)

Capital is extraordinarily badly written on a sentence by toiling sentence basis, which makes me wonder whether he's even capable of doing the sub-Banville aestheticism, on any level.

Insights of daily life barely merit the name insight, apart from a couple of occasions where I said to myself 'yeah, I guess that's just about a thing'.

The interior monologues of the characters are utterly utterly dreadful, full of truly mundane material that should never be in a book. 'So and so looked at the Prius and its leather seats, he wished he could afford a Prius but in the meantime would continue to take the tubefghk;lsfb;hadfjghvflk;sxnhjnhj'

It is a book whose messages come as a clearly attached post-it at the beginning of each chapter. *(I guess - message novels have to stay on message, rather than let the imagination of the writer take them in places that are interesting or entertaining. You just feel like you're being shown things that you've read a thousand times before in longer-form journalism.)

What it reminds me of most is The Information by Martin Amis, which isn't an amazing book, but is world's classics status compared to Capital. Amis wouldn't call a bar 'Uprising' but he might do something similar, better, but similar. Likewise there are the shady figures, the underclasses, the outsider figures, presaging doom for the main power characters.

But MA was probably the best recent State of the Nation novelist? He was funny and he was a very good writer, which helped. Still easy to come a cropper, with the all CAPS text messaging in Yellow Dog for instance. And everything from The Information onwards has been increasingly flawed, and is probably a continuation of the things that made London Fields weaker than Money?

Any other candidates for good recent State of the Nation novelists? (Or any time - would George Eliot have counted? Probably?)]

Fizzles, Friday, 9 March 2012 12:21 (eight years ago) link

xp

His dad was some kind of banker iirc, & he does seem to have actual friends in the city, so you think it'd be his strong suit.

Feel like this is going to be a MAJOR NEW DRAMA on BBC1 at some point.

woof, Friday, 9 March 2012 12:22 (eight years ago) link

What a Carve Up? I remember it being good, but don't trust 90s me as a judge tbh. It also doesn't quite take the cross-section of society route iirc.

woof, Friday, 9 March 2012 12:24 (eight years ago) link

Amis also had a couple of Zbigniews in I think London Fields.

Ismael Klata, Friday, 9 March 2012 12:25 (eight years ago) link

McEwan's Saturday is clunky-as-hell but basically alright.

Ismael Klata, Friday, 9 March 2012 12:26 (eight years ago) link

Is there any detailed exposition of what bankers actually do, other than having three computer screens? Ian McEwan, even if being tedious, would always have some of this to redeem it.

― Ismael Klata, Friday, 9 March 2012 12:19 (2 minutes ago) Bookmark Flag Post Permalink

There isn't, perhaps surprisingly. There's some rather awkward handwaving towards types of trading, and bankery things, to indicate he knows what he's talking about (which he does), but it's kept at a minimum, I suspect because Lanchester feared (prob rightly) that going too much into it would a)be disproportionate b)reveal that he knows rather less about the working detail of everyone else.

I think a fictional account of a banker by Lanchester, or a group of bankers, would have been far more interesting than this 'terrorist', 'immigrant', 'old lady', 'young artist' media stereotype bollocks.

Things where you can tell Lanchester feels more comfortable:

Talking about football (this isn't good, but it doesn't feel RONG).
Bringing up small children (this isn't funny, but " " " ")

Fizzles, Friday, 9 March 2012 12:26 (eight years ago) link

er 'of a banker or a group of bankers by Lanchester' not 'by Lanchester or group of bankers' obv.

Fizzles, Friday, 9 March 2012 12:27 (eight years ago) link

xp

aesthetic saturday objections aside, I think a state-of-the-nation has to be significantly longer than that, 400pp minimum.

woof, Friday, 9 March 2012 12:28 (eight years ago) link

Heh, I like the idea of a group of bankers writing as Luther Blisset.

Ismael Klata, Friday, 9 March 2012 12:29 (eight years ago) link

is Hensher's Northern Clemency in this vein? Anyone read that?

woof, Friday, 9 March 2012 12:32 (eight years ago) link

Wasn't Amis' new book originally going to be called The State Of England? A better title than Lionel Asbo, anyway.

I enjoyed Theo Tait putting the boot into Ali Smith's last, vaguely S-o-E book: http://www.lrb.co.uk/v34/n02/theo-tait/the-absolute-end - doesn't happen often enough, presumably because of the very small world of London publishing. Read the kindle sample of the Lanchester and couldn't believe how slack it was, yet I haven't read a bad, or even mixed, review yet.

Stevie T, Friday, 9 March 2012 12:51 (eight years ago) link

Have the feeling this is going to belong on this thread soon:

http://fivedials.com/images/672.jpg

Stevie T, Friday, 9 March 2012 12:58 (eight years ago) link

private eye gave captial a stinky review, fwiw

x-post

― Ward Fowler, Thursday, 8 March 2012 14:25 (Yesterday) Bookmark Flag Post Permalink

Fizzles, Friday, 9 March 2012 13:05 (eight years ago) link

I am actually looking forward to Lionel Asbo.

woof, Friday, 9 March 2012 13:05 (eight years ago) link

xp

I also saw a mixed somewhere serious, but can't remember where.

woof, Friday, 9 March 2012 13:06 (eight years ago) link

How about a state-of-the-nation novel not set in London? Is there such a thing?

Ismael Klata, Friday, 9 March 2012 13:07 (eight years ago) link

oh, theo tait again, Guardian.

woof, Friday, 9 March 2012 13:07 (eight years ago) link

If the Northern Clemency is that sort of thing, it seems to be Sheffield-based. But I think most SoN-type novels would try to do London a bit maybe? At least have one character moving/working there?

woof, Friday, 9 March 2012 13:11 (eight years ago) link

Actually, I may be imagining it, but is there something of Adam Curtis's faux-humdrum tone to some of those opening sentences up top? Like how all his BBC blogs begin with sentences like "One September night in 1945 three British mathematicians and astronomers went to see a new film at a cinema in Cambridge". I can almost hear Curtis reading the one about Petunia Howe.

Stevie T, Friday, 9 March 2012 13:13 (eight years ago) link

i was a fan of What a Carve Up when i read it but when i've flicked through it since i thing i was mostly wrong, and the clumsiness i excused as Dickensian at the time just reads like clumsiness to me now.

interesting to think of Middlemarch as a state-of-the-nation novel because of course it's addressing "middle England" before the fact, at a time when it was far from central to English notions of England maybe?

Nultified Ancients of Man U (Noodle Vague), Friday, 9 March 2012 13:13 (eight years ago) link

iirc Lanchester has too many friends in the journalism trade to get many bad reviews?

Nultified Ancients of Man U (Noodle Vague), Friday, 9 March 2012 13:15 (eight years ago) link

Wasn't Amis' new book originally going to be called The State Of England? A better title than Lionel Asbo, anyway

Should have just gone the whole hog with 'I Hate The Fucking Proles'.

Homosexual Satan Wasp (Matt DC), Friday, 9 March 2012 13:38 (eight years ago) link

don't think he realises his dad was sometimes joking

Nultified Ancients of Man U (Noodle Vague), Friday, 9 March 2012 13:39 (eight years ago) link

I quite enjoyed that Ali Smith book as I was reading it but some of its sympathetic characters are more annoying than its unsympathetic characters and it descends into caricature rather a lot. Also it doesn't really go anywhere.

Homosexual Satan Wasp (Matt DC), Friday, 9 March 2012 13:40 (eight years ago) link

oh, theo tait again, Guardian.

― woof, Friday, 9 March 2012 13:07 (31 minutes ago) Bookmark Flag Post Permalink

"Actually it was a good sandwich," runs a typical sentence

Good job the review has forewarned me of this particular sentence, otherwise I might have hurled the book across the room.

Fizzles, Friday, 9 March 2012 13:44 (eight years ago) link

That review is spot on about the 'drone' of the prose. Also:

And there's a lot of slightly lazy repetition: "Parker, the boy she had been going out with ever since they kissed at a sixth-form dance on a hot June night back at sixth-form college."

This! Who on earth let this sort of thing through? It's like the weird repetition of the business about the skips and builders in the first chapter and the 'Transport for London card charging device'.

Fizzles, Friday, 9 March 2012 13:54 (eight years ago) link

There was an interview I skimmed through that did say L's dad was banker. But so what? Isn't part of the 'story' how the system almost took on a life of its own and no one really has any control/understanding?

Part of the reason why I never got round to Whoops! anyway was that all of a sudden this novelist that is never on your radar acquires an interest over these topical matters - except that in this case, as I've said, my impression is that even the so-called experts are no experts when it comes to the financial system, so what chance does this guy have? The other reason is that unemployed/laid-off bankers started writing a mountain of these so cynicism set in.

Related but separate thing is you have other novelists I think I'd hate - Geoff Dyer and Adam Mars-Jones writing bks on things I really like: on Stalker and Late Spring, whereas I would like to see these being written by film writers that would bring wider knowledge on Japanese and Russian cinema instead of what I think it would be (= too many boring personal reflections...its for the fans you know). Its depressing that this might be the only way for bks to get published on really interesting films/topics and this seems like the only way to get any shelf-space/coverage.

I guess they've done their 'research', ffs.

xyzzzz__, Friday, 9 March 2012 14:01 (eight years ago) link

'the system' took control -- this is SF material of course, fuck 'station of the nation' bullshit.

xyzzzz__, Friday, 9 March 2012 14:04 (eight years ago) link

otm.

Fizzles, Friday, 9 March 2012 14:05 (eight years ago) link

iirc Lanchester has too many friends in the journalism trade to get many bad reviews?

yes, I get the impression he's well-liked; also bad reviews aren't really done that much anymore (there was some fuss about this recently, maybe centred around that hatchet-job award?). The notable thing is how much attention it's getting - I got the impression that Lanchester was slipping into the terminal midlist zone before this, releasing also-reviewed, diminishing-returns novels every few years. Now he's a hit! I guess that's partly Whoops!, partly a canny topic, partly a very quiet literary spring in the uk, partly book-page need to have some literary middle-aged men to take seriously.

woof, Friday, 9 March 2012 14:18 (eight years ago) link

Actually, I may be imagining it, but is there something of Adam Curtis's faux-humdrum tone to some of those opening sentences up top? Like how all his BBC blogs begin with sentences like "One September night in 1945 three British mathematicians and astronomers went to see a new film at a cinema in Cambridge". I can almost hear Curtis reading the one about Petunia Howe.

― Stevie T, Friday, 9 March 2012 13:13 (56 minutes ago) Bookmark Flag Post Permalink

there is a little bit. But I think the thing that annoys me about these specific sentences is the way he smuggles in other information. The 'brisk clip', and another one where after the usual time and season bollocks, Lanchester puts in a 'slightly out of breath'. I wouldn't mind so much if it was as formulaic as Adam Curtis' 'I'm going to tell you the story of x. It's a remarkable story that involves x,y,z,π and ك'.'

Fizzles, Friday, 9 March 2012 14:23 (eight years ago) link

Idk, should this be changed into a 'State of the Nation' novel thread? Change title one of these maybe?

'Actually it was a good sandwich' - State of the Nation novels and what is in them

'fuck 'station of the nation' bullshit'

'I am actually looking forward to Lionel Asbo'

'Why isn't there a racist taxi driver? I demand a racist taxi driver'

'I also saw a mixed somewhere serious'

'i'm assuming the copies i saw in waterstones were some britain-wide conspiracy'

'wonky textspeak'

' I guess it looks like what broadsheet journalism likes to believe novels are'

Fizzles, Friday, 9 March 2012 14:44 (eight years ago) link

ah, 'I also saw a mixed review somewhere serious'.

Fizzles, Friday, 9 March 2012 14:44 (eight years ago) link

I dunno, enjoying the title as it stands, above all "that the computer had come with"

woof, Friday, 9 March 2012 14:53 (eight years ago) link

rau! rau!

mark s, Tuesday, 12 March 2019 19:09 (one year ago) link

'Navigated to the web page'

The Vangelis of Dating (Tom D.), Tuesday, 12 March 2019 19:10 (one year ago) link

rau!

mark s, Tuesday, 12 March 2019 19:10 (one year ago) link

Imagine the mileage to be got from describing all the noises and steps of using a dial-up modem

Mince Pramthwart (James Morrison), Tuesday, 12 March 2019 23:46 (one year ago) link

I only just saw Fizzles' critique of JL's new novel's first page.

Excellent.

the pinefox, Wednesday, 13 March 2019 08:38 (one year ago) link

I ended up listening to that The State Of podcast. I almost felt sorry for JL, maundering on about wine drinking podcasts - “they even have meet-ups” - and being patronising to Lockwood - “it’s a very nerdy podcast where they talk about soil types (LAUGHTER)... which sounds like a joke but it’s true” [everyone goes no shit john] while she effortlessly covers being Extremely Online.

Also lol so middle aged. “They even have videos of people eating really hot chillis, have you seen those?” The bit where he says but i suppose you have to be worried about the mob-like pack mentality. i feel bad because he’s clearly the wrong person for the job here - extremely offline - and i don’t want to dunk him too much. tho hearing lockwood use language like edgelords to an audible blankness made me laugh.

lol at when she says to that pack mentality bit “well i think the people who worry most about that tend to be older people”.

to ignore that for the moment lockwood also manages to say a lot more about the internet than lanchester even from the ponderous letters approach. he’s terrible on facebook. he’s vague about the business model. he says if only facebook charged $20 per user of facebook they wouldn’t need to do all the algorithmic stuff. omfg. “it’s probably our fault - we prefer having everything for free than pay for it”.

Fizzles, Thursday, 14 March 2019 07:13 (one year ago) link

Lockwood is 36 so only really young by LRB standards.

the pinefox, Thursday, 14 March 2019 10:11 (one year ago) link

Last night I remembered that JL wrote a big retrospective on Marx for the LRB and how it contained this argument, which I now see is the very beginning:

In trying to think what Marx would have made of the world today, we have to begin by stressing that he was not an empiricist. He didn’t think that you could gain access to the truth by gleaning bits of data from experience, ‘data points’ as scientists call them, and then assembling a picture of reality from the fragments you’ve accumulated. Since this is what most of us think we’re doing most of the time it marks a fundamental break between Marx and what we call common sense, a notion that was greatly disliked by Marx, who saw it as the way a particular political and class order turns its construction of reality into an apparently neutral set of ideas which are then taken as givens of the natural order. Empiricism, because it takes its evidence from the existing order of things, is inherently prone to accepting as realities things that are merely evidence of underlying biases and ideological pressures. Empiricism, for Marx, will always confirm the status quo. He would have particularly disliked the modern tendency to argue from ‘facts’, as if those facts were neutral chunks of reality, free of the watermarks of history and interpretation and ideological bias and of the circumstances of their own production.

I, on the other hand, am an empiricist. That’s not so much because I think Marx was wrong about the distorting effect of underlying ideological pressures; it’s because I don’t think it’s possible to have a vantage point free of those pressures, so you have a duty to do the best with what you can see, and especially not to shirk from looking at data which are uncomfortable and/or contradictory. But this is a profound difference between Marx and my way of talking about Marx, which he would have regarded as being philosophically and politically entirely invalid.

https://www.lrb.co.uk/v34/n07/john-lanchester/marx-at-193

I reflected (without looking up the above) that there was something dubious about this. Now that I read it again, it seems even worse than I remembered.

JL is virtually saying that Marx is uninterested in facts, data or accurate statements based on evidence. In faux-naif, passive-aggressive mode he says that he, JL, humbly does believe in these things. To which his audience is then supposed to think: Don't worry, John, so do we!

the pinefox, Thursday, 14 March 2019 10:16 (one year ago) link

v busy today obv (second and i hope final day of big book send-out!) but i very much want to come back and dig into this at some point

mark s, Thursday, 14 March 2019 10:34 (one year ago) link

I now feel surprised that I accepted this JL argument about Marx as possibly OK at the time. It now looks deeply tendentious, self-serving and misleading, and not even very intelligent or cogent on its own terms.

the pinefox, Thursday, 14 March 2019 11:12 (one year ago) link

There is a gross amount of ego in that "I, on the other hand..."

Chuck_Tatum, Thursday, 14 March 2019 21:05 (one year ago) link

I, on the other hand, refuse to believe that John Empirical Lanchester would fall prey to ego

Carpool Tunnel (Noodle Vague), Thursday, 14 March 2019 21:29 (one year ago) link

Chuck OT<atu>M.

the pinefox, Friday, 15 March 2019 10:42 (one year ago) link

nine months pass...

lol i am again very busy and still want -- and need -- to come back and dig into this at some point

mark s, Tuesday, 7 January 2020 21:54 (six months ago) link

four months pass...

I actually enjoyed Lanchester's Simenon article in the latest LRB but there are a couple of good moments that made me think of this thread (not for the prose so much as the weird intrusion of oops, tripped over a kerb! Lanchester).

1) Weather used, powerfully - who knew?

The second bunch of Maigret novels have a more relaxed and expansive feel than the first cluster. At times the landscape itself is sunnier. (This is a powerful technique in fiction, more so than readers consciously notice. Christopher Sykes once asked his good friend Evelyn Waugh how it was that one of his earlier novels, apparently light and humorous, had an undertow of melancholy. Waugh said he had done it by keeping the weather in the book grey and rainy.)

2) Uh, really?

The reader whose idea of the novel is formed by the English canon may at some stage start to read books in the French tradition. At that point, it may suddenly seem that everything one has previously read has essentially been children’s literature. Dickens, Thackeray, Trollope, even Austen and Eliot, are all wonderful writers, but their work is founded in wish fulfilment, happy endings and love conquering all.

Vanishing Point (Chinaski), Thursday, 4 June 2020 19:38 (one month ago) link

jfc

hip posts without flaggadocio (Noodle Vague), Thursday, 4 June 2020 19:44 (one month ago) link

that doesn't preclude you enjoying the article, of course, but what a maroon

hip posts without flaggadocio (Noodle Vague), Thursday, 4 June 2020 19:45 (one month ago) link

Innit though. So weird and clumsy.

Vanishing Point (Chinaski), Thursday, 4 June 2020 19:48 (one month ago) link

makes me doubt he's ever read Eliot for one thing

hip posts without flaggadocio (Noodle Vague), Thursday, 4 June 2020 19:55 (one month ago) link

The French adored George Eliot's novels.

A is for (Aimless), Thursday, 4 June 2020 19:58 (one month ago) link

Yes - these statements are very bad.

The whole point of the end of MIDDLEMARCH is that it is downbeat, gradualist, meliorist but modest. The last word is 'tombs'.

the pinefox, Friday, 5 June 2020 06:27 (one month ago) link

Someone should tell him about Thomas Hardy some time.

Matt DC, Friday, 5 June 2020 07:46 (one month ago) link

Also I don't know why this should surprise anyone but it's nice to have confirmation in print that Lanchester has no sense of irony.

Matt DC, Friday, 5 June 2020 08:06 (one month ago) link

DC completely correct - Hardy is now seen as central to the English canon and 100% contradicts JL's statement.

I suspect you could even go further and find an argument that lots of French literature is more fantastical or wishful than English - say Dumas, Hugo, Jules Verne, though they're certainly not wholly representative. But the more you look at it the more of a fool JL looks, which is the main thing.

the pinefox, Friday, 5 June 2020 08:59 (one month ago) link

like...I was reading the plot synopsis of Silas Marner while teaching a comprehension on a passage from it yesterday. man suffers for that happy ending

imago, Friday, 5 June 2020 10:16 (one month ago) link

i only just started reading this piece this morning (and already lol-hiccuped at chinaski's first quote)

a few days back a US musicwriter (never an ilxor i don't think tho i have met them IRL) (they seemed nice!) announced with anticipatory pleasure that they were setting this piece aside to read "like slipping into a warm bath" which very nearly caused me to jump into a tweetbeef before i remembered "let ppl like things" sometimes has a kindness to it -- is good reading ever a warm bath? no. BUT relaxing warm baths are likely needful in These Trying Times™ and who knows what griefs and stresses this writer is currently dealing with -- so no beef for them this week

on the other hand (in anticipation of beef to come) lol wtf

mark s, Friday, 5 June 2020 10:32 (one month ago) link

Warm beef bath

gnarled and turbid sinuses (Jon not Jon), Friday, 5 June 2020 11:47 (one month ago) link

thought about doing a "best wish fulfilment ending" with Wuthering Heights and Middlemarch and Bleak House and Tess and etc etc but really why dignify Lanchester?

hip posts without flaggadocio (Noodle Vague), Friday, 5 June 2020 12:40 (one month ago) link

i wd happily write a nice tart letter-to-the-LRB abt it -- except of those four i have only completed bleak house (and that hurriedly in service of a film review)

mark s, Friday, 5 June 2020 12:51 (one month ago) link

also it was little dorrit not bleak house lol

mark s, Friday, 5 June 2020 12:51 (one month ago) link

it's such a non-reader's point anyway, "wish fulfilment". Jane Eyre marries Rochester, woooo what a romcom ending

hip posts without flaggadocio (Noodle Vague), Friday, 5 June 2020 12:54 (one month ago) link

more indications that no informed sub-editor gets to lay a hand on the copy of the star writer

(speaking as a less-informed sub-editor in this instance, but actually i wd probably have queried exactly these claims even tho i hadn't read these books) (if only to head off the exasperation of those LRB readers who have, which is surely at least some of them?)

mark s, Friday, 5 June 2020 13:04 (one month ago) link

i don't know, we were discussing this yesterday, can you edit for "idiotic but not technically factually incorrect" opinions?

hip posts without flaggadocio (Noodle Vague), Friday, 5 June 2020 13:06 (one month ago) link

if so i think the "wish fulfilment" bit would be the phrase to go for, if he was trying to say 19th Century French Realism was the dark and gritty lit of its day there is probably a less inaccurate way of being wrong about it

hip posts without flaggadocio (Noodle Vague), Friday, 5 June 2020 13:07 (one month ago) link

molloy, malone dies and just one more thing

― mark s, Tuesday, 18 December 2018 11:19 (one year ago) bookmarkflaglink

^^^very slept on btw

mark s, Friday, 5 June 2020 13:08 (one month ago) link

can you edit for "idiotic but not technically factually incorrect" opinions?

of course you can, you send the copy smartly back to the writer with a big red ring in felt-tip on it, and say "this is *sort* of correct, but some of our readers will bridle at it and bring up counter-examples, can you tighten and redraft to tackle this issue so we look less idiotic plz?"

mark s, Friday, 5 June 2020 13:11 (one month ago) link

i should stop seething but without remembering all the plot lines Middlemarch is *literally* about how middle class patriarchy crushes you so y'know

hip posts without flaggadocio (Noodle Vague), Friday, 5 June 2020 13:12 (one month ago) link

does the "canon" have a terminal date? it's an even more risible line if you're allowed to venture into the 20th century. excluding drama also feels like a cheat to avoid mentioning Shakespeare ffs but at least he's clear about doing so

dip to dup (rob), Friday, 5 June 2020 13:16 (one month ago) link

from a lit crit nerd point of view a bunch of the writers he names, especially Dickens, haven't been regarded as central to the canon by 20th C big dogs like F.R. Leavis

hip posts without flaggadocio (Noodle Vague), Friday, 5 June 2020 13:20 (one month ago) link

Dickens, Thackeray and Trollope all considered second tier by mainstream critics at some point

hip posts without flaggadocio (Noodle Vague), Friday, 5 June 2020 13:21 (one month ago) link

i think leavis changed his mind on dickens? also i feel that the leavis version of the canon has not gone uncontested among critics since at least the bust-up with eliot at scrutiny (also i read FRL's book on lawrence a couple of years ago and it FUCKING SUCKS)

checking up on the dates of this i digressively discovered that there is an a.s.byatt character called BLACKADDER

mark s, Friday, 5 June 2020 13:27 (one month ago) link

oh i agree Leavis's opinions on the canon were for shit but not uninfluential and again i suspect Lanchester is oblivious to any of this stuff. and Lawrence is a godawful prose writer. some of the poetry i can live with.

hip posts without flaggadocio (Noodle Vague), Friday, 5 June 2020 13:29 (one month ago) link

actually pinch of salt, the last time i *tried* with Lawrence i couldn't do it to myself but it's not like my opinions are set in stone.

yeah what grates about Lanchester, always, is the real sense that he's talking from glib ignorance.

hip posts without flaggadocio (Noodle Vague), Friday, 5 June 2020 13:30 (one month ago) link

i find it so weird JL's become the LRB's golden boy! so much of it feels like stuff they shd just be writhing away from

i think lawrence is interesting exactly bcz he's so obviously talented and obviously insightful and obviously very problematic, and just so complicatedly on the move through various social and cultural layers and issues -- but FRL just finds 5139847519879384759 ways bang on abt him being "virile and morally taut" or whatever)

mark s, Friday, 5 June 2020 13:41 (one month ago) link

His argument makes even less sense wrt Wuthering Heights than it does with Middlemarch.

Matt DC, Friday, 5 June 2020 13:59 (one month ago) link

WH is more obviously tragic but Middlemarch is existentially bleak af imo, they both give him the lie tho

hip posts without flaggadocio (Noodle Vague), Friday, 5 June 2020 14:08 (one month ago) link

i mean at least Heathcliff and Cathy kind of get to have passion, Middlemarch is about the impossibility of passion under capitalism

hip posts without flaggadocio (Noodle Vague), Friday, 5 June 2020 14:09 (one month ago) link

now i want to know if there any any pop songs based on maigret or simenon

mark s, Friday, 5 June 2020 14:18 (one month ago) link

https://genius.com/Saian-supa-crew-la-preuve-par-3-lyrics

Matt DC, Friday, 5 June 2020 14:20 (one month ago) link

how peculiar. i assumed the sentence would end something like, let me summon my inner review of books syntactician, ‘a view of the world in which the act of coitus is removed entirely from romantic love and in which death is for the most part sanitized and picturesque’

the ghost of tom, choad (thomp), Saturday, 6 June 2020 08:17 (one month ago) link


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