Friday, November 10, 2006

What think you, readers?

... A Dearth of American Women Novelists? (Hat tip, Rus Bowden.)

86 comments:

  1. Susan Balée7:51 PM

    If they extended the designation to "North America," then Margaret Atwood would be included. She's the major female novelist on this side of the Atlantic.

    Among Americans, I would definitely cast a vote for Andrea Barrett, though she writes more short stories than novels (but _Voyage of the Narwhal_ is a great novel). Alison Lurie has also penned some good novels (_Foreign Affairs_ and _The Truth About Lorin Jones_ are both fine, literary fiction), but I don't think she even ranks a mention in that article.

    But what about Annie Proulx? It's true that she mostly writes short stories, but what about _The Shipping News_? I think the arbiters of good novel taste didn't think about this enough.....

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  2. Oh boy, I'm going to have to do a post on this. I've always noticed this, and it's not just limited to novelists, but to all arts and sciences as well, main reason being that men take risks and women don't. That's the biggest difference. Even someone like Jane Austin isn't in a league with Dickens. The Bronte sisters wrote basically high brow romances, not taking on any 'real' subject matter that could have great impact. And what is with naming bad poets like Rich and Graham along side Dickinson and Plath? Women tend to be safe writers, sticking to safe subjects. Graham and Rich are so SAFE. And even the best female novelists aren't in a league with the best men. For example, they often lump Woolf beside Joyce, but she's not as good as he is. (I don't think she's very good at all, and if she weren't a woman, no one would care about her). Even a painter like O'Keefe isn't in a league with Picasso or Matisse, she was more limited in her styles than they were.
    But I would include Betty Smith and Daphne Du Maurier as great women writers. Are they as good as Steinbeck? Hmm. But Joyce Carol Oates? Just because she's written 1000 books no one will read in years to come? I've always thought that was her attempt to make some 'name' for herself, try to throw a thousand darts at the wall and hope that maybe one might stick. My future for Joyce Carol Oates is seeing her old and outdated books, dusty on an old bookshelf, in a forgotten bookstore, just like those old farts from the 18 & 1900's. And Graham and Rich will be there too. Luckily, time is the leveler of all things, thankfully.

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  3. I think Willa Cather took risks, Jessica, and I think she is every bit the equal - at least - of Hemingway, Faulkner, Fitzgerald and Wolfe.

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  4. I agree about Cather, and she was also someone who felt that women writers limited themselves, and I do know she wanted to be thought of in the league with a Dickens and Kipling, etc. I do remember she was very critical of them for not being able to 'keep their emotions under control.' I think it was part of this realization though, that made her take those risks. George Eliot too, took risks. Cather though, got a lot of grief in her lifetime for being too 'classical' which I think is unfair. But also, I was thinking about filmmakers too. When I think of some of the greats, there is Bergman, Fellini, Antonioni, Herzog, Kubrick, among others, but no women there either. So it's not just with novels.
    The article also forgot to mention Elizabeth Barrett Browning for a great poet. I also think one of the big differences between men and women writers is that men deal with ideas more. Cather dealt with ideas, as did Iris Murdoch. But the ratio by comparison is very low when it comes to men vs. women.

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  5. Susan Balée3:33 PM

    I think this is really changing nowadays. What do you think of Sofia Coppola as a filmmaker? Or Jane Campion? Also, women writers have always taken risks -- it used to be a risk to try to write at all in a field dominated by men. Hawthorne was so offended (and jealous) of popular 19th-century women novelists that he called them "lady scribblers."

    Virginia Woolf took narrative risks -- she's Joyce's equal in stream-of-consciousness writing, Kate Chopin took social risks with her sexual themes, Harriet Jacobs risked her life and freedom when she penned _Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl_. There are dozens of examples. The problem with the original article linked to here is not that there are few women novelists mentioned *because* they aren't as good as men, but that there are few women novelists mentioned because whoever made the list didn't think about it long enough ... for whatever the reason.

    Off my soapbox, and out into the sunny weather with my kids. Anon, mignons--

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  6. Sofia Coppola: not in a league with dad, or any of the other male filmmakers I listed. I mean, how can anyone really think that? Also, the 'risks' that you mention women having taken are all socially involved or something to do with their sexuality, basically risks seen as women, not as individual artists. I.E. "it used to be a risk to try to write at all in a field dominated by men." Simply taking on this 'risk' does not guarantee the quality of the work will equal that of men.

    When you say that "Harriet Jacobs risked her life and freedom when she penned _Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl_" I'm not speaking about risking one's life, but taking risks in the art. Also, I have to disagree strongly about Woolf matching Joyce.
    MRS DALLOWAY is very pretentious and dull, as is TO THE LIGHTHOUSE. Very, very overrated. Woolf wouldn't be known as she is if she was a fat guy named Fred. Nothing of hers matches his short story "The Dead." My point is that you can take say, the 10 best male artists vs. the 10 best female artists in any field, and the 10 men always top the 10 women. Maybe this will change in years to come, but as it is now, such is the case.

    Also, those 'lady scribblers' that you mention Hawthorne being jealous of, what were their names? No one remembers them, so they probably weren't that good. His calling them that was more likely out of annoyance with their trite themes (and the audience even then liking the Lowest Common Denominator) than anything else, and as proof, Hawthorne is the one name you remember, while those 'lady scribblers' all have gone way of the dinosaur.

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  7. Susan Balée9:43 PM

    Oh, my. I think you need to take a nineteenth-century literature class, kiddo. Names you might, and certainly *should*, know:

    Jane Austen, Charlotte Bronte, Emily Bronte, Elizabeth Gaskell, George Eliot (the only one you know and like, perhaps because Mary Ann Evans knew she'd better make up a male pen name), Mary Elizabeth Braddon (her novel, _Lady Audley's Secret_, was the best-selling novel of the entire 19th century), Louisa May Alcott, and on and on. This is just off the top of my head; there are lots more.

    I fear you don't really know what you're talking about; you know how to argue, but you haven't got the evidence to support your assertions. And your attitude that men are better than women is amazingly retro, unless "Jessica" is just your pen name and your real name is "Harry." You remind me very much of a woman critic of the 1850s & '60s named Margaret Oliphant. She really hated Mary Elizabeth Braddon and took every chance she got to write that M.E.B. was "unsexing" herself and embarrassing all women by trying to do a man's job (popular novel writing).

    Anyone else going to join into this discussion? I hope so. I have a Ph.D. in the nineteenth-century British novel, but surely someone else can give J.S. an overview of twentieth-century writers.

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  8. While I think they still fall short on the Literary and Film areas, I think they have exploded in the music business both in style and voice.
    It is the one ART that embraced women rather than intimidate or belittle them as the early masters of Literature and Film did.

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  9. For Susan and Jessica:

    http://www.superlaugh.com/1/behappy.htm

    There are only two kinds of people who are really fascinating: people who know absolutely everything, and people who know absolutely nothing. Oscar Wilde Irish dramatist, novelist, & poet (1854 - 1900)

    Pei

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  10. Jessica Schneider said: "And even the best female novelists aren't in a league with the best men." Wow. That's quite an indictment.

    For great female American novelists, I nominate Harriet Beecher Stowe, Margaret Mitchell, Ayn Rand, and Pearl Buck.

    As for contemporary novelists, Amy Tan writes beautiful stories that break my heart every time (but I could be biased since I also have a difficult relationship with my Asian mother). My book club just read The Dew Breaker by Edwidge Danticat, and I am sure she will continue to develop as a writer.

    If you broaden the scope to short stories, you have to include Amy Hempel. In addition, American women have written great books for young people like S.E. Hinton (YA) Madeleine L'Engle (children), and Cynthia Rylant (picture books). Emily Dickinson, who has already been mentioned, is the only female American poet I can think of right now, but there must be many others.

    The above are just off the top of my head. Including the names previous commenters have listed, surely this is some evidence proving that there isn't a dearth of American women novelists.

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  11. Doubtless it is far too early to tell, but must they be great NOVELISTS? Then we could include Flannery O'Connor. Lorrie Moore. Deborah Eisenberg. Antonya Nelson eventually. And I think there's some hope for the future in the form of Dana Spiotta (her NBA nomination was no fluke.) And what of Paula Fox?

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  12. Susan- Ahem, 'kiddo'

    Please save your condescension. If you read my earlier posts, you saw that I mentioned George Eliot (and yes I know her real name,) also, the Brontes were just high brow romance, not great literature. Lump them beside Dickens and it is laughable. And what have you to say of my mention of Hawthorne outliving those 'lady scribblers'? Just look how you avoid the point I make so well. That proves it! As for me not having any 'evidence' to support my assertions, what about you? You can't even defend my Hawthorne point, and then you bring up a mediocre film maker like Sofia Coppola as though she's in a rank with the others? Why didn't you bring up Coppola's other kid, Roman? Oh, wait, 'cause he's male. How many foreign films have you watched? I bet you haven't even heard of most of those directors. Also, don't tell me I need to 'take a class'. I learn by reading on my own, and I've long retired from 'taking a class' under the light of some dense professor who'd have 'retro' opinions as of yours, as the solution to my problems. You can't even address my points in regards to how your so-called womanly 'risks' are all related to their gender, not the art. You argue like someone who is quoting from some old professor in college, not with what's actually on the page. And actually, in regards to women in music, how many classical female composers are there vs. men? Don't tell me I'm imagining it. And I am right about Woolf. Her short stories are crap, her novels dull, but you can't see that because you're too busy quoting your English prof from college who told you what to think rather than really think it for yourself. The best of Joyce is better than the best of Woolf, period. He wrote poorly too at times, but his best is still better.

    I swear, how can you think that I'm being 'retro?' I'm pointing out the obvious. You're being 'retro' in being so PC and unwilling to recognize it. I did not say that men were 'better' than women, but they excel more, they take greater risks.This does not mean they are smarter or more crative. If you actually read you'd see that I said 'maybe this will change.' The same reason wars start and we have evil dictators- all men. There are women exceptions, but you have to look at human nature as a whole.

    As for me arguing my points up well but having no evidence, (kind of a contradiciton) You have 0 for 2. What do you think about that, kiddo?

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  13. Jessica Schneider said: "And even the best female novelists aren't in a league with the best men." Wow. That's quite an indictment.

    For great female American novelists, I nominate Harriet Beecher Stowe, Margaret Mitchell, Ayn Rand, and Pearl Buck.

    I am not being anti-woman, I'm being pro-art.

    The only name of those I'd consider great is Pearl Buck. Margaret Mitchell? You can't tell me you'd rank her beside Melville, Mark Twain, Hermann Hesse, Steinbeck, Kafka? And even Pearl Buck, where does she fall? Is she better than all of those names?

    Ayn Rand- she's not a good ficiton writer, she's more about her philosophy in her non-ficiton.

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  14. I thought this thread was about American novelists. Hesse and Kafka are both German, so, no, I would not pit Margaret Mitchell against them. I would, however, put her up against Mark Twain. Have you read Gone with the Wind? Its epic portrayal of the antebellum South could go toe-to-toe with Twain's nostalgia for the Mississippi Delta. I have a feeling you dislike it for its love story, but the thread driving the plot in Steinbeck's East of Eden is also a love story. I can't comment much on Melville, but I'd rank Mitchell above him considering that I've read Gone with the Wind more than once and have not managed to make it 1/4 of the way through Moby Dick despite several serious attempts.

    You have obviously not read Rand's The Fountainhead. Her fiction enhances her philosophy by making it accessible to non-philosophers.

    Your glib dismissal of the rest, including those mentioned by Susan, shows that you do not know how to provide evidence proving your point despite your affinity for argument. I, too, can throw out the names of great writers. I am also sure I could come up with a longer list than you. But knowing the names and knowing the work are two different things. You malign female writers, but how many of them have you actually read?

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  15. Very interesting discussion! I was going to write, until Marydell came in late and said so, that the original post was about American novelists, rendering most of the above debate moot, or at least beside the point of the original post.

    Not wishing to get into a fight, I would disagree with the cavalier dismissal of the Brontes as "just high brow romance" as I am sure would many other people.

    Now, returning to the original question of "American" novelists, by which I assume the poster means "US" (it is very noticeable to us Brits how the US Americans always "bag" the term "American" for themselves, relevant here as I presume we are omitting Canadians (eg Atwood as mentioned), and all the various central/south American countries)?

    Another point is that when that "best American novel in past 25 years" article was originally posted, there were an awful lot of bloggers creating their own lists. In particular Mapeltree7 of "Book of the Day" did her own survey and posted the results on her blog, so people might like to go to see her list, which was rather woman-heavy if I recall.

    Harper Lee is too old, I think. Are Carol Shields and Alice Munro USA or Canadian? Sue Miller? Pearl Buck must be OK as she won the Nobel for literature ;-) and Ann Rynd is certainly well regarded for more than her political philosophy. I personally like Margaret Mitchell's Gone with the Wind -- but surely Mitchell, Buck and Rynd also wrote too long ago to qualify? Joyce Carol Oates does qualify though. Not sure about Cather, Frank?

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  16. Maxine & Marydell-

    Thanks for your comments.
    My argument was for men vs. women, not just American vs. non-American. I have read many women writers, but Margaret Mitchell wrote only one book, as opposed to Steinbeck, who wrote many. One has to look at the bulk of the work. His East of Eden is not in a league with Grapes, I don't think. As for name tossing, look at Susan for that one, there is also only so much that one can post in this little comment box. Here are some (a few) great female writers: Pearl Buck, Betty Smith, Daphne Du Marier, Willa Cather, Iris Murdoch, George Eliot, Doris Lessing, Carson McCullers. Yes there are more but my point is when you say someone like Stowe is great for her novel, even James Baldwin thought that book sucked. He says it in an essay, and I didn't think it was that well written, but was more known for it's social importance than artistic accomplishment. I don't believe, for example, that anyone would throw in Margaret Mitchell as a great writer if she was a man. It's only because she's popular and FEMALE, for why someone like her is more noticed than other writers. I still stand by my opinion in regards to Woolf, I don't think that if she were a man that as much a fuss would be over her. I've not read everything she's written, but when I did read her stories and 2 of her novels I was shocked at how cliched the writing was, because she was so highly praised. The ending of To The Lighthouse, for example, is, "Yes, she thought, laying down her brush in extreme fatigue, I have had my vision." How pretentious. I'm only quoting that as an example.

    Here is what I think: I think Betty Smith's A Tree Grows in Brooklyn is one of the greatest novels ever written, man or woman. I think Pearl Buck's A Good Earth's end is one of the best ends to a novel I've ever read (ditto for Smith). I think Daphne Du Marier's short story collection The Birds and Other Stories is the best collection of stories I've EVER read, man or woman. But the point I was trying to make is that men still dominate. We could argue too, 20th century vs. 19th century, and I think 20th blows 19th out of the water.
    But still, my point is, you have to think a little harder about the great women writers because there are less of them than men. Even thinking of the Russians, Tolstoy and the like, the one great female writer out of that country is poet Marina Tsvetaeva. But also with there being less a number of great women writers than men, one can be assured that there are therefore a higher number of bad male writers. I think D.H. Lawrence is mediocre, and Henry Miller is bad.
    And we haven't even gotten into playwrights. Other than Lillian Hellman, men dominate there too. I hope that will change, that there will be more great women playwrights/novelists/poets than there are now, but my solution to any writer, man or woman, is they have to have balls to become great.
    I did a post on this on my blog.

    So where are all the menz in this? They're thinking, 'I'm not going near this discussion!'

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  17. Susan Balée11:48 AM

    I totally forgot about Amy Tan -- how stupid of me, as she's one of my favorite novelists. Thank you, Marydell, for the reminder.

    Jessica, your continued reiterations of how great Charles Dickens is cracks me up. I have read all of Dickens (I had to; I studied with Dickens' scholar Steven Marcus) and he is a wonderful novelist, but guess what? After his heyday in the nineteenth century, his reputation dropped dramatically for over half a century and, if you wanted to find a book by Dickens, you'd do best looking in the children's book section. Why? A book by E.M. Forster (I hope you've heard of him, but probably you haven't) called _The Art of the Novel_ classified Dickens as primarily a writer for children and that's where he wound up for the first several decades of the twentieth century. In the 1920s and '30s, especially, very few people thought he was a great novelist. His novels were relegated, like those of Robert Louis Stevenson and H.G. Wells, to Christmas gifts for kids.

    What resuscitated him was a powerful essay by Edmund Wilson (another person of whom you are likely ignorant, but he was a great American critic and married to a wonderful memoirist, Mary McCarthy), called "The Wound and the Bow." Wilson argued that Dickens was far more psychologically complex than anyone (after Forster's damning critique) had given him credit for being. Mind you, Wilson was writing just at the time Freudian analysis was surfacing as a real force in American literary criticism. Lionel Trilling picked it up at Columbia and passed it on to his students. Steven Marcus, one of those students, embraced it -- one of the best books of his career was a Freudian analysis of Dickens' novels. And, of course, Dickens has therefore been considered a great writer in *your* lifetime, which is why you don't know he ever languished.

    I do think you should take a class. The professor might love your lively, argumentative disposition (or hate it, depending on the prof.), but you would certainly enable her to make a number of good points and you might even -- gasp -- learn something. Even autodidacts such as yourself could benefit from intelligent input from specialists (e.g., professors of literature in this case).

    Good luck. I do think you have chutzpah in spades -- wed it to some real expertise and you'll be a debater to reckon with.

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  18. This guy has been around long enough to know to stay out of something like this. But I stand by my original point: Willa Cather is a great novelist. A fabulous style wedded to profound insights into human character. What more can you ask for.
    Also, I was practically in love with Emily Bronte at one point in my life, convinced that the accident of time alone had kept us apart.

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  19. Susan, You are doing a lot of bigwordthrowingarounding. Your didactic approach to lit is obvious- you argue like a professor, not someone who is really creative. Also, my comparison of Dickens was to Jane Austin. I don't think he's in a league with the great 20the Cent novelists. He has great characters. Actually, kind of funny you mention 'taking a class' because it's profs with your condescension who can't argue points well that made me drop English as my major and learn it on my own. (Herzog never went to college nor did Kubrick, and were self-taught, but you wouldn't know anything about that). Academics such as yourself always adhere to the stale 'ghosts' as Ibsen called them- i.e. stale opinions (which is all the more funny you accuse me of having them and being 'retro' outside your PC academic condescension). Your opinions are a reflection of the profs you learned from, and the ones they learned from, etc.

    Yes, I have heard and read E.M. Forster. Thanks for your little tidbit. Again, you make personal snippy comments because you can't argue against what I'm saying. How 'bout those filmmakers I mentioned, how many of them do you know, or is that too tough for you to understand? What you don't realize is how cookie-cutter your thinking is, you're unable to even make a point without throwing names around. And I'm not one of your little sycophantic students that hangs on some prof’s every word. I don't care if you have some degree, your argument for women and their 'risks' had nothing to do with the art, just going against social convention, standards, and being a woman. And still, there were hundreds upon hundreds of 'lady scribblers' (and 'male scribblers') in Hawthorne's day, but they've been forgotten because they weren't good. They were a product of the times and nothing more. The same thing will happen to the majority of writers today, men and women, the good last, the bad don't.

    But thanks for all the big names you throw around. It sure is helpful for us ignorant folk who don't know nuthin' about literature like them profs do! God, I wish I was as smart!

    Boy, I sure would trade all the great poems and mss I've written in exchange for your meager didactics! YAWN.

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  20. Susan Balée4:01 PM

    Hee, hee. You've really got me laughing here, Jessica. Rock on, girl. You're like a force of nature (what kind of force I'm not sure).

    I've got lots of other stuff to do -- deadlines for mss. & such like -- so I'll not pick up the cudgels again, but it sure would be nice to see some other folks weigh in.

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  21. Likewise on the laughter. (Mss as well I must attend).

    ...The Tornado, perhaps?

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  22. I think that Willa Cather was a great American novelist, yes. I disagree about Virginia Woolf; yes, she could be pretentious, but so could every damn innovative writer of that generation, from joyce to Hemingway to Beckett to Forster to all the rest. Pretentiousness is neither limited to Woolf nor to that squad. Lately, I've been thinking that Woolf was actually better than Joyce, on several levels; not sure I can articulate why I feel that way, yet, though.

    In "genre" fiction, which everyone always overlooks, but in my opinion often has better writing, and better writing STYLE, than most mainstream fiction, there are many remarkably excellent woman novelists. The few that srping to mind, off the top of my head, are: Kate WIlhelm, Dana Stabenow, Ursula K. LeGuin, Nina Kiriki Hoffman, others.

    Sorry, I do not buy the argument that men writers take risks and women writers don't. That's as big a sweeping generalization as those made by the PC wing, in the other direction, that all women writers are good just because they're women. Even if it were generally true, which I dispute, because on the evidence of the women writers in genre fiction who take risks, I'd say the opposite: at least in SF and mystery, there are MORE women writers who take risks than men writers. I also think that there is some truth to the feminist argument that, frankly, many women just didn't get published in past centuries, so we don't really have a fair statistical basis on which to make such a judgment. I think in some cases, like George Eliot (and just why did she pick a male name to publish? mabe it was because she couldn't under her own name?) the writing was so good that they just couldn't ignore it. And that's we know her work, now.

    Anyway, it's a theory.

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  23. Anonymous2:44 AM

    Jessica Schneider:

    Get over the idea that you are special because you watched some Bergman films. All of the filmmakers you listed are standard fare in an undergraduate survey course on film. Fellini, Antonioni, etc...these are are all well-known, canonized filmmakers. Just because you only recently discovered them doesn't mean that everyone else is ignorant of them, or their greatness.

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  24. Maxine, considering that we yanks have claimed "American" for ourselves, do you think anyone else on this side of the ocean would want it? I am more than sure that Canadians, for example, would be quick to point out the mistake and feel insulted if anyone were to refer to them as Americans. The horror! :)

    Jessica, when you put it that way and explain your point more thoroughly, I get it. I agree that if you were to weigh ALL male novelists against ALL female novelists, men would handily win by the numbers. If you think about the historical context, though, it shouldn't be a reason to make sweeping generalizations about female writers. Men have a tradition of writing (including the education, means, and time needed for it) going back thousands of years. Women are playing catch up, and I think they're doing a fine job as novelists so far.

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  25. Art,

    The three novels and short tales of Woolf's I've read are bad. Not a worthwhile passage.

    No one save Jess has addressed the like-dialike axis. When Jess has stated views she's talked about ewcellence. The others have have talked about 'like', or Susan has quoted others' for she has not an original idea of her own.

    Of course men take more risks- the very reason men dominate the arts is the flip side of why there are few female equivs of Al Capone, Billy The Kid, Stalin, Hitler, Mao, Jack The Ripper. Yes, Aileen Wuornos is the dark side of Plath, but think back to the UPG, and all the female writers who came vs. the male.

    Women generally write to express emotions, men ideas. Emotions, by their nature, are going to be less tangible and hold up not as long. To not acknowledge this is PC bullshit. In 50 years Charles Johnson will tower over a Toni Morrison. Boy, think the Nobelists were slavering over the fact they could give a black American woman a Nobel? Just like they gave Harold Pinter- Sam Beckett lite, a Nobel. As for published writers, there are none in the last 30 years that will last, save for Johnson and William Kennedy. LeGuin is very hit and miss- her short stories are not good, and Alice Munro is very overrated, not in a league with Lessing, unless you think angst in Ontario hayfields makes for great drama.

    Anyone who would mention Amy Tan as a great writer simply cannot be taken seriously as an intellect. How about Liz Wutzel, too? And the Brontes were high brow romance. there are no great ideas in their books- they're solid tales, but little more. While Dickens needed to learn concision, and he did not grapple with the great ideas the Russian masters did, there is far more satire and social import in his work, not to mention characterization.

    However, the best female novel of the 19th C. was Liz Browning's Aurora Leigh- and it was written in verse.

    'Mary Elizabeth Braddon (her novel, _Lady Audley's Secret_, was the best-selling novel of the entire 19th century)'

    Geez, Suzy-Q, why don't you just admit that you're a Lowest Common Denominator drone and get on with your robotic career? And Louisa May Alcott? Although Canadian, even Lucy Maud Montgomery was better, by a mile.

    'I have a Ph.D. in the nineteenth-century British novel, but surely someone else can give J.S. an overview of twentieth-century writers.'

    That about explains it all. If one needs further evidence of the rot that Academia brings, Suzy-Q explains it all.

    As for Joyce vs. Woolf, Joyce's best stuff was in Dubliners, and each proceeding book got worse because of his syphilis. BUT, he had too things Woolf did not: a) a felicity with words and b) humor. Woolf is morose. Great writers almost always have a great sense of humor. Wilde, Twain, even Dostoevsky in the scenes in C&P where Raskolnikov tries to turn himself in.

    Margaret Mitchell? She's dumbed doen Brontes? Please. Susan, please READ what you speak of vefore you taste your own toe jam.

    Finally, for now, Ayn Rand? Putting aside her intellectual lack, her writing is what was referred to as 'typing' by Truman Capote, when he dismissed Mickey Spillane. No depth, no style, no individuation.

    And, it should be noted that old Harper Lee has never done another book since the old gay flame died. Hmmmm???? Could the rumors be true?

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  26. BTW- Suzy-Q, please reply so that I will know that there will be a few younger writers in your classes who may be spared a bit of the dumbing down you foist upon them. One can only imagine what Emily Dickinson or Cather would have become with a prof like you.

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  28. Anonymous said...

    Jessica Schneider:

    Get over the idea that you are special because you watched some Bergman films. All of the filmmakers you listed are standard fare in an undergraduate survey course on film. Fellini, Antonioni, etc...these are are all well-known, canonized filmmakers. Just because you only recently discovered them doesn't mean that everyone else is ignorant of them, or their greatness.
    2:44 AM

    Hey Anonymous Dumbass,

    Too chickenshit to use your real name, I see. You seem ignorant of a lot of things, if you think my listing them was merely to 'impress you.' Wow, and here I was thinking I could pull one over on you. With your astute insights you should really go into film criticism. Or Academia.

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  29. Steven12:18 PM

    'I have a Ph.D. in the nineteenth-century British novel, but surely someone else can give J.S. an overview of twentieth-century writers.'

    The problem is you're all talking about English-language writers as if they were serious or credible. The English can't really write anyway; most great literature has been achieved in the romance languages, or else Chinese and Japanese. Most English novels from the 19th century up until the present are about the English class system and thus of no consequence to anyone not actually present in that situation. American writing is a little better but still pretty bad. But if you look at French writers they have Baudelaire, Flaubert, Zola, Radiguet, Proust, etc. Italy has Dante, Svevo, Calvino, etc. Okay some of it is bad but it is light years beyond anything ever produced in England.

    Everyone mentioned in English literature is usually a cliched writer; for example Jane Austen is completely hermetic and has no relevance to anything; the only reason people really like writing that is written by English writers is because it appeals to some kind of fantasy or Romance, like Jane Eyre or anything by Jane Austen; it has nothing to do with reality or imagination.

    I can't remember who said it but someone said that Dickens was books for children. That is pretty well an accurate assessment; his characters are all cliches, they are just names where he attaches an idea like "utilitarianism'" or "virtuous poor person" and then they go on to behave like robots fixed to a plot. If an adult reads a book by Dickens he smiles a lot but it is fundamentally not different from a video game or an action movie.

    All the writers that were just mentioned I will explain:
    Jane Austen - hermetic fantasy nonsense; has no relevance now or even at the time except for an extremely circumscribed band of rich people.
    Charlotte Bronte - same thing with Jane Eyre; it's a Romance or fantasy novel.
    Emily Bronte - Wuthering Heights is better, has more psychological depth but still doesn't stack up on the world stage.
    Elizabeth Gaskell - it's all topical political-based stuff seasoned with melodrama like Mary Barton; pretty unreadable now
    Lady Audley's Secret - what even is this, has anyone even read this.
    Louisa May Alcott - it's children's books again.

    Instead of arguing whether women or men have achieved what in the novel since no one writing in the English language has achieved very much at all since the dawn of time.

    If you want women writers look at France they have Nathalie Sarraute, Anais Nin, etc.

    Or look at Japan, they have Fumiko Enchi, Yumiko Kurahashi, insane writers that no one knows about because they're not English. China is also doing well with Fang Fang and some other great women writers.

    No one will pay any attention to this message; it will be taken as an absurd or illogical message because it denies the validity of literature in the English language. Probably people are reading this with PHDs and 'English Majors' at university and doubting what is being said here; but you don't need to blink or disbelieve; I am challenging you to completely discount all fiction ever published by English people; if you quit English fiction like cigarette smoking and read only fiction published in non-English languages you will have your mind blown and not look back; I am accepting your thanks in advance.

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  30. Steven-

    I enjoyed your comments, I agree about the Brontes and much of Austen. There were many other women scribblers of that day (of which I'm sure 'the prof' here can pontificate on) but they just wrote it better, yet those books still deal with 'romance' and does not deal with the heavy IDEAS that the men did.

    And just so you know, me, Dan and Art Durkee are about the furthest things from academia one can find.

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  31. steven12:59 PM

    Beowulf is also overwritten, the language is too fake, even from early times English people could not muster their consciousness to produce literary art, instead they produced...EVELYN WAUGH!

    The average English novel written by a woman: there are like two guys, one is a badass who looks Jewish and the other is a football captain type guy from a big family and there is a girl with nervous hypo-exhaustion who chooses between them; the Jewish looking badass is actually the better guy which is a surprise because 'dark' looking people are suspicious and brooding. (c.f. Pride and Prejudice, Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights, Felix Holt etc.)

    The average academic criticism of this novel: there is a dog in the novel so the dog represents phallic power even though no one knew what phallic power or Freud was back in the day. If someone opens a window in the novel it is like they are opening a window into THE UNCONSCIOUS. If someone walks past a cave in the novel it means there is like repressed psychoanalytic power flooding the characters from THE UNCONSCIOUS and causing nervous hypo-exhaustion and wetting the bed.

    How to get MFA/PHD: just take anything in the novel and be like "it's a symbol of colonial power or the unconscious"; Like if someone plays with their hair they are enacting colonial discipline or feeding off archetypes from the collective unconscious.

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  32. Steven-

    Or academics will defend the most poorly written piece of tripe by way of its intent, i.e. they agree with the politics behind it, or they think it's a reflection of the 'suffering' or whatever vapid PC term they want to use. These people have no ideas or insight on their own which is why they need to be part of the 'system'. Don't you know, they have PhDs!

    You need to visit www.Cosmoetica.com- even if one doesn't agree with every essay on the site, it's a good place to go for an anti-academic and un-PC approach to literature and great writing to boot. Unlike academia, it does not condescend. The site would not be so popular, with 63 million hits and growing, were there not others also noticing the stupidity that academics and their critics spew. Many readers are young college kids who are fed up with their prof's name-dropping and PC. And ironically, the ones who notice it, (that their profs are dolts) tend to have writing talent, unlike that of their profs, who write in clichés and get published because they are 'in the system' not because the work has any literary merit.

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  33. Marydell: at the journal I work for, our house style is to use "US", "Canadian", etc for the nationality, and to use "North American" to mean "US and Canada", etc. But I admit to being an editor and a pendant. I imagine that everyone would want to be accurately portrayed -- I do know many Canadians who get very cross when people use "Amercian" loosely to mean "US".

    As to the whole writing argument -- well, what can I say? I am British and if people in these comments are going to dismiss writers of the calibre of Jane Austin, three Brontes, George Eliot, Virginia Woolf, etc, then there is no hope for you all.
    (I speak as an admirer of the British authors Dickens, Bennett et al).

    However, as I mentioned in my previous comment, this entire debate is supposed to be framed around "American (sic) authors of the past 25 years".

    I would also add "never mind the quantity, feel the width". i.e. you should count quality not quantity. Austen, the Brontes and Eliot are unbeatable when the whole range of literature is considered. I do not agree with the people in these comments who have written so disparagingly about these authors. I don't care what teaching courses say, anyone coming to any of these authors' books for the first time is due to read the essence of the human spirt, distilled. So there!

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  34. Hey,

    I just want to post in the same thread as Dan Schneider. I haven't in years. If he is here, there will be reckoning.

    This is an excellent thread, all. I am enjoying it. Thanks for the passion and caring.

    Yours,
    Rus

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  35. I'll take just a small role in this vigorous debate, then step aside before it turns acrimonious. "Even someone like Jane Austen isn't in a league with Dickens"? She's above his league, I'd say, quite possibly the greatest, wisest, funniest novelist who has ever written in English.

    This is probably the most vigorous discussion I've seen on a blog since David J. Montgomery got called on the carpet for posting a Ten Greatest Detective Novels list that had no female writers on it.
    ===================
    Detectives Beyond Borders
    "Because Murder is More Fun Away from Home"
    http://detectivesbeyondborders.blogspot.com/

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  36. I don't care what teaching courses say,

    - Me too.

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  37. "Even someone like Jane Austen isn't in a league with Dickens"? She's above his league, I'd say, quite possibly the greatest, wisest, funniest novelist who has ever written in English.

    I dunno, I'd pick Mark Twain for that. Wilde for plays.

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  38. Christine8:52 PM

    Very interesting blog.

    You should check out this article:

    http://www.salon.com/media/1998/06/03media.html

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  39. I love Twain. Like Austen, I suppose, Twain is wide and, God forbid this awful word, deep, as well as witty and highly entertaining. I haven't read enough Wilde to judge him.
    ===================
    Detectives Beyond Borders
    "Because Murder is More Fun Away from Home"
    http://detectivesbeyondborders.blogspot.com/

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  40. I would suggest that, before we reject English-laguage authors in favor of Chinese, Japanese, French and Italian authors, we make sure we have read the latter in the original and not only in translation. Having made my way through the Paradiso while staying in Tuscany a few years ago I think I can say that Dante is every bit as great as his reputation suggests. I also know that Thomas Mann, Hermann Hesse, Arthur Schnitzler, Rilke, Adalbert Stifter and Theodor Storm write splendid German. Given that the novel didn't really come into its own as a literary form until the English took it up, it is hard to see how one can blithely dismiss its English practitioners - and I dropped out of graduate school, so I am untainted by academic prejudice. Tom Jones, Tristram Shandy, Moby Dick - all in English and all very great. And only three among many. "The English can't really write anyway." Tell that to Borges. And check out Shakespeare, Milton, and the Authorized Version.

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  41. I would also suggest that some of us be a bit more civil. An argument is weakened, not strengthened, by rancor. Literature, after all, is supposed to have a civilizing effect. I say this as someone who once went crashing through a second floor bannister onto the floor below in the company of someone I was having a disagreement with - just like in the Westerns.

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  42. Anonymous1:06 AM

    "Hey Anonymous Dumbass, too chickenshit to use your real name, I see."

    I can't take this seriously coming from someone with a history of anonymous sniping on amazon.com.

    "You seem ignorant of a lot of things, if you think my listing them was merely to 'impress you.'"

    One of the things you talk about on cosmoetica is writers not condescending to their audience. Assuming that someone hasn't heard of a world-famous director like Fellini is doing just that.

    You are very bitter. The 'rancor' in this discussion comes from your resentment at not being published despite your writing talent...especially when there are many women writers being published who aren't good. I've never found Dan's writing on Cosmoetica to come out of bitterness, even though he is in the same situation as you. Excellence in art is more important than merely being published--this is something that Cosmoetica persuasively argues. So why is it that Dan can be secure in his accomplishments but you can't?

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  43. I am only sorry that "anonymous" who posted the comment immediately above mine didn't read Frank's comment above that first. What an embarrassingly childish tirade. You see a lot of that kind of thing around on blogs, unfortunately.

    I too feel embarrassed now, because not only am I participating in this particular "vigorous debate" but I was the instigator of the David Montgomery "best but no women" crime fiction authors debate too. And these are the two most vigorous debates Peter has seen on blogs. This is telling me something. I should obviously go away and tend my rose garden (while reading the sublime Jane Austen, of course).

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  44. Steven6:23 AM

    Okay Frank you are right there is some good stuff Sterne is good and Milton is good, Jessica your poetry is well written it feels like Modernist poetry sort of from 1930s or 40

    The website Cosmo is good, I don't know, if you get bored learn another language like Chinese or Japanese they have tons of good writers and poets; it can't be translated, if you translate haiku or something it doesn't make sense because the whole point is the characters.

    Has anyone heard of Tu Fu, Li Bao, if you read it in Chinese it makes sense, it is just like a single line, a Basho poem (Japanese) is a single line and there is no rhyme or anything it is just characters going together, doesn't make sense translated into three lines like the English translators do, if you know how to write the characters you can write the whole poem on your hand or something, doesn't work with roman alphabet

    Frank the old English writers you are liking like Milton knew other languages and read European and other works, but in schools in America and England now it is not necessary to learn different languages or read works in original language so writers get more limited influence

    Women don't have to write about just emotion or anything, they can use ideas, but if they grow up with no influences they will write the same kind of stuff and keep repeating, they will have a more limited idea.

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  45. Pardon me if I do not get all the attributed writers' comments correct, but a few points:

    1) It was Susan Balee who started in with the condescension, and is manifestly insecure. Waving your credentials around is like having a foot long penis and bragging about it all the time, except that most Academics are flaccid.

    2) It's silly to say all women, Brits, English lingo, etc. writers are bad.
    Jess merely stated that on the whole male writers still domnate, and it's true. In the sweep of history, most of the no-name women writers mentioned by Susan and the rest are unknowm for a reson- they did not stand the test of time. One or two may be 'recivered', but most won't.
    Frank's correct about some works. Any language (English) that could produce Oscar Wilde simply cannot be brushed aside. He is nonpareil as a humorist. Twain is not far behind, and even more wise. Melille has Moby-Dicj and three or four other prose works that are sterling. His poetry sux big time.
    As for Austen being better than Dickens. C'mon. The writer of that is free to like Austen.
    I like Godzilla films, but give me Kurosawa as art. Now, I could go into detail, technically, why Seven Samurai is a better film that Gojira- the original Japanese film of Godzilla, but do I really need to?
    Do I need to explain why a trite Hallmark card writer like Maya Angelou is not as good a poet as Whitman, Rilke, or Mandelstam? This is manifest. One can reasonably disagree over Rilke vs. Whitman, but to deny objective realities is silly.
    Amy Tan as a great writer? How about Jon Franzen, too? Or Richard Russo.
    The very fact that names like this are tossed out shows how dumbed down literature in this country has become.
    As for Tu Fu, he was the best of the pre-Modern Chinese poets I've read, a thousand yearsn ahead of the West, in terms of modernity.
    A few other points, Jess is not 'bitter', just frustrated. I'm doing a long esay on some of the doltish replies I've gotten from agents as well as people who write my website, and when you are swamped with a bunch of retarded children from a Diane Arbus photo it's easy to forget their are adults, some who are healthy.
    But, to the original thrust, when speaking of literary fiction, the English lingo is in the pits for the last thirty years- at least as far as published writers. The MFA programs are to blame. Most people cannot be Michael Jordan, so why this feeling that if they want to express emotions they can pick up a pen and be taught to be Emily Dickinson? She'd've been destroyed by the ignorants in Academia.
    Imagine how someone like Susan wd be utterly lost without her handy workbooks to cherrypick opinions from others from.
    And, I have to disagre with Arrt about genre works. Genre works are such because their writers choose to make smaller their purview. A friend of ours (me, Jess, Art), named Jason Sanford, who runs a storySouth website, has started writing genre fiction because he feels it's easier to do and get published in.
    That says it all. Even great sci fi classics, like Asimov's Foundation trilogy or LeGuin's Lathe Of Heaven simply are not in a league with Huck Finn, Moby-Dick, nor A Tree Grows In Brooklyn. The characters are not as complex, the situations do not move nor touch as deeply, and they do not last as long. Genre fiction is like light verse- there can be great light verse, but it almost never is great 'poetry'.
    And this is from someone who likes the light verse of a Richard Brautigan. However, he's not the poet Robert Frost was, and I dislike Frost. The point is I can recognize my bias and admit Frost is the better poet.
    Were all people able to recognize their limitations, and stride over their biases, the arts, in general, would be better off.
    And, as a bonus, scam artist MFA types like Suzy-Q would have to get real jobs in the real world.
    Sort of like Donny Rumsfeld has to.

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  46. Well, Steven you are certainly right about the decline in educational standards. And that does have an effect on literature, no doubt about it.
    Re Chinese literature, The Inquirer recently had an excellent review by my colleague John Timpane of David Hinton's new translation of Wang Wei, accompanied by a box showing some of the intricacies of Chinese verse. If I can find it, I'll post it later.
    In the meantime, I suggest that everyone read John Cowper Powys's Weymouth Sands.

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  47. Maxine, don't you dare go away!

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  48. Susan Balée10:19 AM

    Wow -- this discussion has exploded since last I was here. Dan Schneider, I suppose you are related in some way to Jessica Schneider (in name if not otherwise). As far as condescension goes, you and she are big on name-calling (I am, what, "untalented, robotic, uncreative, didactic, lowest-common denominator drone, etc.?). It is typical of people who can't argue a point on its merits to resort to name-calling. I am not a bit surprised that neither you nor J.S. has ever published anything outside your blogs -- not that I have seen, anyway.

    Doubtless I shouldn't have mentioned that I have a Ph.D., since it seems to have so utterly freaked you out (talk about insecure!); I did it to emphasize that when it comes to 19th-century British lit, *I* know what I'm talking about. I've studied it for years, I've read it, and I've published numerous essays about it (in Scribner's British Lit. series, Victorian Literature and Culture, The Hudson Review, The Weekly Standard, The Women's Review of Books, and so on) -- *real* venues, where they pay me, not blogs where you can bloviate and insult to your heart's content, but only those who already agree with your views (the main one seems to be that only reason you're not really published -- other than by yourself, in cyberspace -- is because you're not "in the establishment") are going to read on.

    And, by the way, I'm not an academic, so you've got that wrong, too. I left it years ago because it was just too PC for me (and I love that you think I'm PC; my old friends from Columbia -- oops, another name dropped, call out the insecurity police -- for *you*! -- would crack up at that one).

    I'm trying to write fiction these days and struggling just as much as everyone else. Fifty rejections for every acceptance. But you can bet *your* flaccid pen, Dan (and Jessica), that I'm not self-publishing the stories I sell.

    So, keep on singing to the choir, kids. I'm outta here -- I really do have to work; haven't got the hours to spend on blog threads that you guys apparently do -- and I wish you luck convincing the rest of the world of your brilliance. Because, in the end, as far as I can see, you still don't know what you're talking about.....

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  49. I can only respond from the poetry side of the dearth question, as my favorite biography of all time stands as Nien Cheng's Life and Death in Shang Hai, and I have no favorite novel, except to say that I go in for short genre works like the Lem translations. In fact, as a kid I remember reading some western novel or novels and enjoying them. I like Kerouac too. But, on to poetry.

    With a social science background, I do not discount that there are biological differences that would result in different outputs at the typewriter, just as they result in different abilities on a softball field, although I love to watch those women play. I use to play league softball, a very tough league that sent a top ten team to place in the nationals each year, and I had a very high batting average--but I watch some women pitch and whew boy they can bring it.

    But before we say any dearth of great women novelists has to do with brain or hormonal biology, we need to get our balance. We need to look at how women are affected by the social side of the matter.

    I thought about the Beats, how they are primarily male poets who socialized in a goal-oriented project or movement--versus Dickinson who was a loner poet--versus Plath (c. Sexton & Hughes), who was goal-oriented and socialized.

    It was mentioned that men have been vicious tyrants, like Stalin and Hitler, or Saddam and Amin. The names of men roll off your tongue. Same with serial killers, like Son of Sam and Dahmer. But serial killing and vicious tyranny have not been equal opportunity employers. We find when power rolls get reversed, men take on the "feminine" behavior patterns and women the "masculine".

    Also, the world derails women's careers more than men's--which leads women into the rooms of their houses. So why aren't there more Dickinson types, loner poets? And here, I think we can be misled by an unusual situation.

    As men know who join sports teams, it is much easier to improve and become spectacular, when you rub elbows with other athletes. This is pretty much what the Beats did in poetry.

    Two basic messages that recur on poetry message boards, are to read, read, read, and to write, write, write. What's missing might be to have or accept a goal and join, join, join. I wonder if the internet, where poets get to rub elbows, will equalize this for women poets to some degree--assuming the dearth, mind you. Conversely, to explain any "lack of dearth" for women writers, it could be to the degree the write-read-join method is working for women.

    Rus

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  50. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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  51. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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  52. I'm still here, Frank! I just meant that I should know better than to get sucked into arguing on a blog -- will I ever learn?

    Glad to see you have carried out your promise to remove the silly insults.

    But re-reading some of these robust comments, it does obviously boil down to opinion in many cases. People obviously feel passionately about loving or hating certain authors. This does not mean that said authors are intrinsically "better" or "worse" than each other.

    I guess you need a PhD in literature to analyse that. (Thus I have neatly bought this discussion full circle and perhaps it can now end?)

    Best wishes
    Maxine.

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  53. Aw come on guys I just made fresh popcorn and was getting ready to settle in!

    I think in lay terms "if we still read and enjoy it that should signify its weight in relation to its own portent" Literature changes, we change, nothing written now will be as it was, all the writers mentioned have made it this far because of the readers ability to connect. Connect to the story-the characters-the vision,the manner will be different for each generation and new voices will emerge. Maybe better, some worse but unique and the evolution continues.
    Homer and his critics would undoubtedly offer that writing has gone downhill since the 12th century BCE.

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  54. Wow, congrats on being a censor. Removal of posts, quite hypocritical since Susan was the one who began with the condescension and insults towards me.

    This is a woman who thinks excellence equals publication, and who has not a single original idea or thought. I merely pointed that out...again.

    I think then you should take down her condescending and belittling posts towards me. But you won't because here's another example where the stupid is always sided with.

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  55. Hi Jessica,

    My interpretation is that Frank needed to stop where the thread was going. We know he likes your work, because he has linked to it often.

    But now you have put him in an awkward position, a position of being challenged to possibly lose what or who he has valued--no matter what he does. He'll now have to be a modern day Solomon.

    I have no side to take in the novel thing. I would be happy to attend yours, Frank's, Dan's, or Susan's class, to learn something about novels and novel writers.

    Maybe some of this is better done via e-mail. The attack part of this thread is leading to people being hurt. I think that's what you are, and what Susan must be at this point.

    Rus

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  56. I think Rus' most recent points, about how the world does derail womens' careers more often than mens', for whatever reason (cultural, biological, whatever) is more or less what I was clumsily trying to say earlier, about how the historical record of what's been published and survived has favored men over women. I don't care if it's PC or feminist to think so, I'm coming from a purely statistical-average viewpoint, and I think Rus says it better than I did, too. Rus' points about balance are ones I agree with completely. Having lvied a significant portion of my life in non-English-speaking cultures, too, I know this is not limited to Western literary culture, but the imbalance is present pretty much worldwide.

    Without scrolling all the way through all this to remember who said it, I agree that the influences of Li Po and Tu Fu are good influences. I was just reading a Sam Hamill essay ("An Answering Music") on the topic of the influence of Chinese and Japanese influence on American poetry over the past century, and Hamill makes some very similar points.

    Dan, you know that we agree to disagree on some points. Genre ficiton is one of them, I guess. Of course none of LeGuin's novels stand up to "Moby Dick," but that's because NOTHING stands up to "Moby Dick." I would say that LeGuin's novels are certainly better than anyhting Updike or Mailer or Roth ever wrote. (Sorry, Dan, I think your syphillis argument about Joyce is a serious oversimplification, even though I agree it may have been a contributing factor.)

    What my bottom line is, I guess, genre fiction or non-genre fiction, good writing—excellence—is what I remember, and what stays with me. What I think the bottom line is is excellence in writing, regardless of male/female, ancient/modern, Victorian/Modernist dichotomies. I never argued with the idea that more men have written great books than women, over the centuries, but I do agree with Rus' idea of keeping some perspective in mind on WHY that might have been so. To argue ONLY on the merit of what writing has been published and survived, to ignore ANY contribution of historical or cultural context, is to argue in a vacuum. Sure, as a critic I look at just the texts and make some choices about which are more durable and better writing, but I am uncomfortable with completely ahistorical arguments about WHY that should be so. Also, living in others cultures as I have, I can say from experience that our unexamined ideas about WHY men and women are different are not universally applicable across all time and space. Cultural relativism? Well, yeah, sure. Since when did the awareness of cultural differences, and their inclusion in dsicrouse, become a sin?

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  57. Everybody's right and everybody's wrong - may I suggest a truce. You've all got valid points. I see that Susan Balee got under Jessica's skin. It wasn't the worst slight imaginable, but it must have hurt Jessica. Jessica is probably one generation removed from the rest of us fogeys and so she argues a little differently. The fogey generation took offense. You're all intelligent people, stop being so *angry*!

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  58. Anonymous8:07 PM

    Glad to see that some resolution has come into this angry thread. Everyone has good points.

    One of many admirable qualities of Dan's literary criticism is to point out times when good writers go bad. However, why does the Schneider camp so often like to label this or that writer as "great"? He says that this is different than "liking" something, but is there a "great" writer who is not liked at least by someone?? There has to be a human factor in here somewhere.

    As for the assertion that "The Bronte sisters wrote basically high brow romances," why can't there be great literature that happens to be romance?

    What is "'real' subject matter that could have great impact"?

    As for Dickens, I'm sure we could group him in among the so-called "great," but try reading "The Old Curiosity Shop." As Oscar Wilde observed,"one would have to have a heart of stone to read the death of Little Nell without laughing."

    As for Woolf, there is "pretention" in Woolf - because of her background. But she was not pretentious on purpose. It was natural to her. Sure she had some bad sentences. But you have to see the forest for the trees.

    What about Edith Wharton? More popular than Henry James? "Greater than" Henry James? It sounds like we're doing math here, graphing inequalities.

    Bring on the flames.

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  59. Steven8:39 PM

    Art Durkee, popular nature of English literature is largely a result of the British Empire, for one thing, okay this is why you have Indian writers trying to become Dickens or something, I wonder would those Indian writers think English literature was so great if England hadn't taken India over.

    Literary critic F.R. Leavis, 1920's England, 'Literature is supposed to have a civilizing effect'

    Civilizing = more like England or controlled by England

    Until Englishman Dr. Johnson decided so, no one took Shakespeare seriously he was just a playwrite, does this mean SHakespeare is not a good writer, no but just think about that.

    I was wrong maybe as Frank says, I cannot say English language is a bad language or doesn't have good writing, but if you grow up in America or England you willt hink everything good was written in England.

    I'm trying to translate a book by Yukio Mishima called 'Kyoko's House' (Kyoko no Ie in Japanese) which hasn't been translated into English, it's a 1000+ page book, okay this is absurd, Yukio Mishima is one of the best writers of the 20th century if something by Dostoevski was not translated people would think it was absurd, but if it's not Western no one cares; if writers are not translated into English no one will care.

    Translation from French to English English to French uses roman alphabet, Russian is cyrillic but still similar in some ways, etc, but Chinese and Japanese are different, a friend of mine was trying to re-translate Fang Fang, he said "Translation is retarded Chinese and English are too different, the whole point is the characters"

    What about Pound, I wonder if he knew Chinese really, were those translations real or not

    Am I saying translation is bad, no of course not, but it's better to learn Chinese and then read the poems in that (if you know Chinese you can understand most Japanese too sort of, especially the older writing)

    People wonder why there are less women writers or less good writers; all I am saying is if people mention the same names, Dickens Austen Eliot Brontes or in America it's Hemingway Fitzgerald Steinbeck Faulkner, okay maybe these writers are good maybe not, but even if they are genius it's 10% of world probably less, if everyone only looks at 10% how many people will you wind up with, you will get everyone trying for the same thing or not everyone necessarily caring about being like that and so not becoming writers at all.

    Writers go to school and get those names, they think 'this is the god-level of writing' and then try to reach that; if enough people tell you Dickens is god you will start believing it rather than looking at it yourself and think 'it's fun but the characters are weak' or something, but how many kids go to college and start to think "I want to be the next Hemingway" or if it's girls a lot of the time "I want to write the next Wuthering Heights", okay that is fine but if everyone is doing that you get repetition, it's like when Nirvana came out everyone started sounding like them, but Nirvana were trying to sound like a bunch of bands no one had ever heard of, that is the difference.

    Everyone posting on this blog is a small small fraction of society, maybe the two or three percent that care about 'serious literature' (whatever that is but that's what it's called), okay take that two or three percent, most of them went to college in America or England and learned about all the writers I just mentioned and got their influences from that, okay so now you have a small percentage of an infinitesimal percentage of society that has the same influences, no wonder you get less writers or less quality writers, how many people even is that in all of America, it's probably numbering in the ten thousands, think of that ridiculously small percentage, I bet probably less than a thousand could name a single Korean or Portugese novelist.

    There is no army draft now so no one has to go to other countries and America and England are powerful so no need to learn other languages (unless politically, ex. Arabic) or look at writing in them; so you get everyone with same influences.

    More influence from everywhere = more quality (see: Renaissance Italy or early English writers like Milton like I said)

    So if someone says "Why aren't there women writers the quality of all those old English women writers?", well for me you have just answered your own question right there.

    This is just in response to what Art Durkee said which I agree with.

    ReplyDelete
  60. Steven9:11 PM

    I read the review Frank linked to

    John Timpane: "First requirement of good translation: It has to be good English poetry. Even if Wang Wei never had existed, this would be a very fine book of English poems"

    He is right, this is what I was saying in previous post, translations can be great, the point is to get people to read the original.

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  61. Dear Jessica,
    I took down only the posts written after my post indicating that I would delete any further insulting posts. I am not taking down this latest post of yours, though, because I am addressing it.
    As Rus says, I obviously like your poetry - and your blog - because I have linked to both. And I will continue to do so.
    I think if you felt Susan had condescended to you, it might have been a good idea to ask her about that before assuming it to be so. Certainly, it would have been better to inquire before losing your temper. Just look at how much space has been wasted in angry back-and-forths rather than focusing on the subject under discussion.
    By the way, I have not engaged in censorship. This is my blog and I do it under the aegis of the newspaper I work for. I am the editor here. I am not obligated to publish every comment posted. I certainly think we all know how you feel and what you think regarding what has been under discussion. What I honestly don't understand is why you are so angry. We're just talking about books, books written mostly by long-dead authors who couldn't care less what we think.
    My best,
    Frank

    ReplyDelete
  62. Ezra Pound's "Cathay" is pretty bad, in my opinion. He didn't know Chinese, and he relied too much (as did some others of his time) on the slightly weird theories of Ernest Fenellosa about idiograms as visual poetry. Then again, while I have always acknowledged Pound's influence on Modern poetry, I have never particularly liked Pound's writings.

    Sam Hamill gives a succinct, and I think accurate, overview of the translation and influence issue of Chinese poetry on American poetry in that essay I already mentioned, "An Answering Music," in his book "A Poet's Work."

    As for India, I grew up there. My experience of India was that most Indians I knew thought of the British Empire as something very much imposed on them, and since they already had several thousand years of civilization by then, well, shucks. *shrug* As for why many Indian writers write in English, that IS because of the British Empire, yes: namely, there are so many linguistic groups on the Indian subcontinent, that English is their only common language. It is still the language of law, commerce, and contracts, because it binds together the country in a way that it isn't bound together by other languages.

    I am the LAST person to think everything good was written in England, or even in English. These days I mostly read novels in translation, because there is such a dearth of interesting novels being written in English by Americans. At least, that's my opinion, based on experience.

    I do strongly agree that more influence from everywhere makes for better overall quality. Travel broadens, reading in translation also broadens.

    ReplyDelete
  63. Frank,

    You have engaged in censorship, and censorship with bias.

    Susan started the attcks with her condescension: 'Oh, my. I think you need to take a nineteenth-century literature class, kiddo. Names you might, and certainly *should*, know:
    Jane Austen, Charlotte Bronte, Emily Bronte, Elizabeth Gaskell, George Eliot (the only one you know and like, perhaps because Mary Ann Evans knew she'd better make up a male pen name), Mary Elizabeth Braddon (her novel, _Lady Audley's Secret_, was the best-selling novel of the entire 19th century), Louisa May Alcott, and on and on. This is just off the top of my head; there are lots more.
    I fear you don't really know what you're talking about'

    Jessica and I merely beat her at her own game. You removed links to posts I had that were merely posted to show that Susan, in a million years, could never achieve such a thing.

    Censors often hide behind the 'My superiors made me do it.' Nuremburg's lessons lost agian, especially since we were no more insulting than Susdan, merely better at it, and w more evidence, It's clear that she's a crony of yours, and you have a right to ne cronies, but you show that you're part of the problem when you censor, not part of the solution.
    When you side with the ignorant and malicious you demean not only your intellect but your integrity.
    THe quote from the above post by Susan shows that Jess got under her skin, and subsequent posts show only an increasingly hostile demeanor. Jess defended herself. Frank, if you cannot see that in the words, then you've no place as a books editor, or anything else to do with the written word.
    Also, the blithe attitude of other posters in not being upset over the censorship shows how far the narcotization of the lit-loiving culture has come.
    The only plus side is you've given me another great example for the upcoming essay I'm doing on the state of Am deliterature.

    Art: Huck Finn, Tree Geows In Brooklyn, the best of Steinbeck, and other lit fiction is as good as Moby-Dick. There is no single towering work of art. I recall a poetaster telling me once that no one else ought to write poems because Yeats cd never be surpassed.
    The pointy is a genre is a de facto blinder, so the vision can never be as broad and deep as plain fiction.
    Rus- if Frank was gonna stop the thread, he should have stopped it when Susan started scrambling her hormones. To do so where he did, when nothing we said was worse than what she said shows that he is biased and hypocritical. It also implies that our posts were a) libelous- NOT, or b) profane- NOT.
    Put them back and let others decide.
    Censors always fear real discussion for it can often show up the folly of their arguments. To be consistent, Frank, I ask you to remove Susan's rude comments, as I showed above, plus all her other snide refernnces. I realize if you do, you'll only further damage your credibility as a censor, and if you don't you'll only enhance your status as a biased hack- but it's your bed, choose the sheets.
    Art- as for syphilis, it's the ONLY thing unexplored by Joyce scholars, and only thing that parallels his slide from Dubliners to Finnegans wake.

    Anonymous: 'He says that this is different than "liking" something, but is there a "great" writer who is not liked at least by someone??'

    Is there not a bad writer at least liked by someone, lest they'd not be known? Thus, like is irrelevant to excellence. You answered your own question.

    'As for Woolf, there is "pretention" in Woolf - because of her background. But she was not pretentious on purpose. It was natural to her. Sure she had some bad sentences. But you have to see the forest for the trees.' This quote is so humorously unaware of its own irony it's precious.

    Frank: 'This is my blog and I do it under the aegis of the newspaper I work for. I am the editor here. I am not obligated to publish every comment posted. I certainly think we all know how you feel and what you think regarding what has been under discussion. What I honestly don't understand is why you are so angry. We're just talking about books, books written mostly by long-dead authors who couldn't care less what we think.' Exactly, so why did Susan get so condescending when Jess simply beat her at her own game? And why are you defending her arrogant snipes and taking down what Jess and I wrote in response. The irony is, Oscar Wilde was mentioned several times in this thread, and you took down the only reply, ine, with a Wildean wit, which again shows that, back then, you'd've been on the side of the prudes that sent him to Reading Gaol.
    And, logically, as the editor, you are defined by the choices you make, and you have chosen to be a censor as well as biased toward deliterate Academia. All I say is, be proud of demeaning yourself. At least be consistent in that aspect.
    Given that a real discussion of the merits and demerits of women writers seems impossible here, is that too much to ask?

    ReplyDelete
  64. Hi Dan,

    When it seemed there were odds to deal with, when Jess who had entered the discussion in an earnest love for the subject, then seemed to get the business you noted--I heard the rumblings. I could not imagine that the king of acid cleansing in lit, if you caught wind of this, would not come in and show how to pour unwatered sulfuric on an argument. Some may believe that Jess simply went and got the big guns. I believe that all you had to do is say, "What's wrong, Jess," and everything that followed, had to follow.

    You say:

    if Frank was gonna stop the thread, he should have stopped it when Susan started scrambling her hormones. To do so where he did, when nothing we said was worse than what she said shows that he is biased and hypocritical. It also implies that our posts were a) libelous- NOT, or b) profane- NOT.
    Put them back and let others decide.


    That was not my take. No one here has control over the posts beside Frank. It's his forum. What he did was to try to steer, at the point he felt it necessary. That's how a forum works. CE Chaffin's Melic RT went up in flames, in good part by his refusal to ever delete on principle. Not that that's what you're saying, but someone has to steer.

    In fact, this is off topic. If he feels it should be deleted, I will understand. But I think more important than whether something is off topic, is if people are getting hurt--and emotional hurt counts. I do not think the arguments counted as much as the hurt.

    Yours,
    Rus

    ReplyDelete
  65. Rus, You're a nice guy. I recall how, years back, on the Atlantic Monthly forum you similarly tried to play peacemaker with types like Susan- there was a gal named Evelyn Aker who was similarly uninformed, rude, and condescending.

    So, when you state 'he king of acid cleansing in lit' in regards to me, it shows that you are again being oblivious to what started the negative trend here. Her name is Susan Balee. Note, it took several posts before Frank took down our posts. Again, nothing said was libelous, defamatory, nor even profane.

    This is always the simpering sort of reply whenever someone starts something and cannot finish it. Yes, Frank has a right to control his blog, but he should be fair. He also should be called out on his actions. In the literaray world a censor is a murderer, rapist, or pedophile, in terms of destroying intellectual exchange.

    Clearly, Jess got under Susan's skin because years of classroom antics and worship from students did not prepare her for a challenge to her wan beliefs. But, bitchiness, especially when carrying a popgun, can often get a cannon volley.

    If you don't wanna be smote, don't start the smiting. If Frank wants to steer, then he should have warned Susan with her first 'Kiddo' to Jess, and her, 'You really need to take a class/ read' or 'I'm a PhD, you're nothing' jive. Since he did not, it shows that he has a bias toward certain people.

    I've argued many times on political blogs, and this is always how it goes. The top blogger shows bias, deletes or bans those he does not like or disagrees with, then pompously says it's not censorship, and that the person banned was uncivil. Anyone reading the thread will se that Susan started going off topic.

    Rus, read the thread, if you cannot see it was Susan who started this, them there's nothing more to say.

    Your last bit on 'hurt' only confirms what I thought, that Susan likely whined to Frank that she was hurt, and that big bad jess and Dan should be 'dealt with', because she was out of bullets.

    Now, Frank can deny that, but since he's already compromised his integrity, any reply has to be taken with a grain of salt. Whoops, cliche- gotta love it!

    ReplyDelete
  66. Hi Dan,

    I mentioned that I thought Jessica was dealing with unfair odds. I read it as more than just Susan, but that Jess had to deal with the "kiddo" thing and try to maintain focus on how others were disagreeing. And I don't disagree with you on the smote/smite thing. Ultimately, that is an emotional way to make a point.

    Not too many onlookers didn't get the hurt part. I don't think you missed it either.

    One problem with flames is the amount of energy and focus they take. They can destroy forums.

    If you were in charge, you may not have deleted anything on principle. But you revert to the sulfuric instead. Yet, this would flame your own forum into oblivion. People would find out quickly that this is where the free-for-all really takes place.

    CE Chaffin had posters besides the flamers, coming in and selling home remedies--just before the forum that had been thriving and focussed, lost valuable participants and closed on, probably some principle.

    I like Evelyn Aker. Haven't communicated with her in years now.

    Yours,
    Rus

    ReplyDelete
  67. Frank-

    I think your bias here is obvious. How anyone can think that is quote said to me FIRST by Susan is not snippy and condescending, is really dumb.


    'Oh, my. I think you need to take a nineteenth-century literature class, kiddo. Names you might, and certainly *should*, know:
    Jane Austen, Charlotte Bronte, Emily Bronte, Elizabeth Gaskell, George Eliot (the only one you know and like, perhaps because Mary Ann Evans knew she'd better make up a male pen name), Mary Elizabeth Braddon (her novel, _Lady Audley's Secret_, was the best-selling novel of the entire 19th century), Louisa May Alcott, and on and on. This is just off the top of my head; there are lots more.
    I fear you don't really know what you're talking about'

    You're telling me that if someone wrote this to you, you would not defend yourself and react back? Then to go and say that I have the temper, when my reaction is a mere response to her childishness?
    Her arguments are pulp, and I pointed that out, and likewise, what happened was that she got 'hurt' by what I said in the post you censored, and thereby you took it down because she's a pal of yours. But by doing that, you make it seem like I cursed her out or said something libelous, when all I did was defend myself, saying that she couldn't come close to writing what I've written in poetry or prose. No degrees from any university, no awards, can buy insight, and she needs to learn this. I was merely pointing that out.
    If you were going to censor, then you should have gotten her on the start, from the very first time she called me 'kiddo' and telling me to 'take a class' you should have instructed her that such behavior was not appropriate, if you didn't want the arguments to lead elsewhere. Because I don't buy your excuse. For if that were the real reason, you would have taken 'action' upon the first time she muttered 'kiddo'.
    I'm saving these posts to put on my blog in the chance that you choose to censor them. A lot of young people from universities read my blog and I think they need to be aware of such cronyism, and the signs to look for when their prof is a hack. (But sort of an oxy-moron there, or just moron).
    I think Dan's 2 posts said it best, so there's really not much else to say, since it's clear that you'd rather do selective censorship, than be fair minded.

    ReplyDelete
  68. Anonymous11:25 AM

    Anonymous: 'He says that this is different than "liking" something, but is there a "great" writer who is not liked at least by someone??'

    Is there not a bad writer at least liked by someone, lest they'd not be known? Thus, like is irrelevant to excellence. You answered your own question.

    'As for Woolf, there is "pretention" in Woolf - because of her background. But she was not pretentious on purpose. It was natural to her. Sure she had some bad sentences. But you have to see the forest for the trees.' This quote is so humorously unaware of its own irony it's precious.


    I'm more aware of my irony than you think. :)

    I still haven't made up my mind on Woolf. I think she has a little more merit than you give her credit for, but not as much as she is given by the PC institution.


    Bad writers are liked by people with bad taste. This is where things get tricky.

    Warm regards,
    Same anonymous.

    ReplyDelete
  69. Steven11:47 AM

    I don't see why it's necessary to delete posts even if they are condescending...if people can read the posts they can make up their own mind I think, although I understand the feeling that it is to try to preserve people's feelings from being hurt...I think if people read a post that is insulting or condescending they will realize that that condescension hurts the argument rather than strengthening it...so it is not necessary to actually delete it, by the time someone gets to just insulting they are usually losing their credibility anyway so it is self-defeating I think.

    Earlier Susan said this:

    Doubtless I shouldn't have mentioned that I have a Ph.D., since it seems to have so utterly freaked you out (talk about insecure!); I did it to emphasize that when it comes to 19th-century British lit, *I* know what I'm talking about. I've studied it for years, I've read it, and I've published numerous essays about it

    My posts were an attempt to challenge Susan by discounting the quality of 19th-century British literature and challenging the English language as well which is almost never done...even though she says she knows what she's talking about I was trying to offer a different view, maybe to help expand her mind or perspective...am I 'qualified' to do this; probably not, I'm twenty-two years old and work in a hotel, I read literature and do translations myself in my spare time, I'm not an academic I just read the books myself and base my own opinion off looking at them that way without being influenced by critics...

    I like Dan's posts because they are so funny, he said something about academics being a flaccid penis or something; that's hilarious okay, if you are being seriously published you can't say stuff like that, I wish Dan had his own magazine or something where people wrote like that all the time...Dan I wish you would get interviewd by The New Yorker or something and call people flaccid penises, I bet like sales would go up 500% and everyone would call you an asshole...it'd be awesome like the Sex Pistols or something

    Does anyone read n+1 or the Believer, it is so serious 100% of the time, especially if they call someone a 'comic' novelist it is even like 100% serious and not funny

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  70. Hi Jessica,
    Thanks for the response. I explained somewhere in one of these threads that I read right over the "kiddo" because I've heard Susan use it so often with me - I just took it for granted. I will concede that you, not knowing that, might take it amiss.
    As for how I would have reacted to it, had I been you, well, my wife has noted that I have an almost sociopathic lack of affect when it comes to criticism from readers. I just don't have any emotional reaction usually to even the most vitriolic communications - and thanks to Richard Dawkins I have lately received some of the most viriolic ever.
    But that's me, not you. I suppose what I would like to get across is that anger is not the only way to respond to a perceived insult, nor is it necessarily the best way to respond (though in all honesty, as I have also suggested here. I have in the past found it satisfying - though those were things that happened in person, not in writing). I would hope you would take me at my word when I say that I am sure Susan did not mean to insult you - though I do understand how you could construe her remarks that way.
    But wouldn't it be possible for us all to arrive at some sort of truce in which we acknowledge (all of us, me too) some slip-ups in tone and attention to tone, let bygones be bygones, and resume the discussion with the aim of coming to a greater understanding of the subject? If we can't arrive at a civilized solution to a literary quarrel - well, we can certainly see why the rest of the world never gets around to giving peace a chance.

    ReplyDelete
  71. I would like to weigh in (at some length, sorry) on the fight between Susan and Jessica/Dan. This has gone from the absurd to the bizarre, and beyond. It has been decried in this blog that there has been a coarsening of educational standards, but why has no one noted that there has also been an unfortunate coarsening of decency? Here I am not talking about “civility,” a civilized word; I’m talking about immaturity, crudeness, and lack of self-control. First, I think it’s obvious that “She started it,” is a cry we try to train out of children, but more to the point, an adult needs to know when to stop. Sure, Susan’s comments can objectively be called condescending and snippy, as Jessica charges, but the rage and scatology that greeted this was simply out of control.

    Jess and Dan are contemptuous of formal education, but one of the several things that an education conveys is discipline, which they have unfortunately missed out on. When reading to oneself, it’s easy to find confirmation of any prejudice in any written material; when one has spent years defending one’s ideas to a smart (even if biased) professor and smart fellow students, one generally concludes that one’s own ideas may be the best, but they are not inarguable. A blog such as this can serve a similar function, but in either a classroom or a blog, the presumption that anyone who disagrees with you is doing so because he’s part of the old-boy, crony network, functions as a wall to protect one’s own inflated (and generally mistaken) ideas.

    Also, a formal education simply makes one more observant and, and also, less obviously, willing to call things by their proper names. I recall my brother describing an incident: he was on a ferry and noticed a guy mumbling to himself at the railing. A man standing near my brother remarked, “That guy’s crazy.” My brother responded in the standard, PC, form to the effect that, well different strokes, etc. “No,” responded the man, I’m a psychiatrist and I know. That guy’s nuts.” When debating the quality of literature, there may well be some merit to the flaccid, academic assumption that in a heated argument, the truth is probably in the middle, with extra credit given to the person who argues most heatedly and at greatest length. However, in arguments attacking people personally, there is not only a right side and a wrong side (and both can be on the wrong side), there are gradations that can be much more important than “who started it,” “who won,” and even, “who is right.” This is another element of a disciplined education that Dan and Jess seem to have missed out on: a sense of proportion, reasonableness, and balance. Dan and Jess have explicitly compared their remarks in the deleted posts to Susan’s condescension, and Frank to a Nazi censor. I am concerned that those who missed the posts may not be aware that they were not presenting cutting, triumphant arguments that had to be suppressed to hide their brilliance. They centered on explicit references to Susan regarding shit, flaccid genitalia, and masturbation. I mentioned earlier that this argument had gone beyond the absurd and the bizarre. What it has gone to deep immaturity, disturbance, and pathology. And yes, I do know what I’m talking about, Jess and Dan. I have the doctorate in psychology to prove it.

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  72. I hadn't noticed that Dan thinks I've compromised my integrity by doing what I said I would do after I said I would do it. As I pointed out to Jessica, I let stand intact the comments that arrived prior to my announcement in a later post that any further insulting posts would be deleted by yours truly. Susan didn't whine to me about it at all. She did say she thought it was getting out of hand. She didn't ask me to do anything. I looked at the thread and - perhaps this will come as a surprise - made up my own mind as to how to proceed. As I explained to Jessica, on this blog, the buck stops here. Neither Jessica nor Dan can reasonably claim not to have had their say.

    I also feel I should add that I pretty much agree with A.

    ReplyDelete
  73. Rudyard Kipling3:53 PM

    Anyway, all women writers are crap, and as for the women readers.....

    ReplyDelete
  74. Steven said...
    I don't see why it's necessary to delete posts even if they are condescending...


    You either missed the point, or else you're a loyal friend of Jessica and Dan's. Frank did not delete condescending posts. Susan's snippy kiddos are are still there, as far as I know. What he did delete, and properly so, were the weirdly violent and strangely lock-step posts about flaccid penises and masturbation and shit.

    How anybody could have read those posts and thought them brilliant and funny, much less the product of a civilized mind, is beyond me. Jessica, at least, showed a willingness to engage in civilized discussion. Then, unfortunately, her medication apparently wore off.

    ReplyDelete
  75. Rus, the very reason I do not allow posts on Cosmoetica is because when i did, early on, it quickly descended into death threats and worse- and not even towards me, but people I barely knew, toward each other.

    Online, people let their ids roam. However, any read of my posts clearly show humor. Wilde was famous for this- as were Twain and Mencken. By the standards you advocate, they would all be hatemongers, or worse.

    As for dialectic or crit, I always seek to enlighten. However, when Susan started off down the road to, to borrow the Clintonian phrase, 'the semantics of personal destruction' she has to be mature enough to know there will be people smarter and better with words than her.

    She is a bully. Period. Bullies need to be dressed own. If Frank chooses not to reign in a colleague or pal, that's his choice, but again, the removal of the posts suggests things not within them.

    Anonymous: 'Bad writers are liked by people with bad taste.'

    Thanks, at least you recognizre that. However, my love of Godzilla films is not for bad taste, but for their relevance to a time when I was young. It's not the liking that is bad taste, but the liking without awareness of why.
    Again, I like Richard Brautigan's crap poems, because they are spoofs of the serious poetry of a Donald Hall and other Dead White Males. But, they are BAD.

    Steven: 'I like Dan's posts because they are so funny, he said something about academics being a flaccid penis or something; that's hilarious okay'

    You get it too. On Cosmoetica I do small reviews of poems called This Old Poem, a play off the PBS house fixing series. Small minds rail that I rip a Bukowski or Wanda Coleman or Donald Hall, but they are intendedly funny because were one to take the bad poems seriously one would cry. The very diff between my and Susan Balee's posts is that she is 'serious', stolid, and utterly arid where humor is concerned. I not only beat her at her 'serious' game, but tweaked her.
    There is nothing that the ignorant in any field get more indignant than knowing a foe is right; unless that foe makes fun of their wrongness. I'll do that, because education should be fun, not dry.

    Frank: 'I would hope you would take me at my word when I say that I am sure Susan did not mean to insult you - though I do understand how you could construe her remarks that way.
    But wouldn't it be possible for us all to arrive at some sort of truce'

    Sure- restore the two deleted posts and admit you were wrong. As much as I think Susan is a sciolist and insecure, her silliness is magnitudes less serious an offense against dialectic and fredom than your censorship.
    Frank, it is you- not Jess, me, nor even balee, who went FAR over the line. W/o simple recognition of this fact all the rest id piffle.
    But, to say that Susan did not mean to be condescending. How cd you know that if not cronies? And, cd you not see the humor in my replies?

    A: 'Jess and Dan are contemptuous of formal education, but one of the several things that an education conveys is discipline, which they have unfortunately missed out on.'

    Where do you get this? Humor requires far more discipline than mere staright on dialectic. I think education is great, if you use it to advance your mind, not puff up your ego. People like Susan can quote their resume all they want, but when they list Amy Tan as a writer of worth, well, All My Children has better writers, and such a resume is revealed as worthless.

    'Also, a formal education simply makes one more observant and, and also, less obviously, willing to call things by their proper names....This is another element of a disciplined education that Dan and Jess seem to have missed out on: a sense of proportion, reasonableness, and balance.'

    And this is from a doctorate? It is often the tactic of those who have a prejudice and do not want to have it explicitly bared, that they masque objectivity behind faux reasonableness.

    'am concerned that those who missed the posts may not be aware that they were not presenting cutting, triumphant arguments that had to be suppressed to hide their brilliance. They centered on explicit references to Susan regarding shit, flaccid genitalia, and masturbation.'

    Au contraire, there was no 'explicit' refernce, no more than Wilde used. But, knowing that Frank deleted the posts you know that your characterization cannot be disproved. That you would reference a tweak over the verbal maturbatory references by Susan into my resorting to scatology is what the term 'pathology' is all about. And no doctorate is needed to defeat such deceits.

    Frank: 'Neither Jessica nor Dan can reasonably claim not to have had their say.
    I also feel I should add that I pretty much agree with A.'

    Which sort of nullifies your earlier, 'But wouldn't it be possible for us all to arrive at some sort of truce'. Nice, but sad. And, if you agree with A, then technically, are we verging on mass delusion, and not mere pathology?

    Rudyard: Have you ever been to Bermuda?

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  76. Kenn: 'How anybody could have read those posts and thought them brilliant and funny, much less the product of a civilized mind, is beyond me. Jessica, at least, showed a willingness to engage in civilized discussion. Then, unfortunately, her medication apparently wore off.'

    So, Frank, you see where your pal's snippiness has led? Another brilliant mind distorting things that cannot be disproved. Put back the original posts and let people see'em. Unless Kenn's meds have been shared.

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  77. Jesus, Dan. You didn't delete an entire forum, did you?

    I've been considering a forum myself, btw. I want a particular kind of argument to be applied, pretty broad, but that all responses would need to follow the premised guidelines of how to bring the specific poem or artwork along. With that focus, it fairly well precludes any discussion that does not quite apparently have such a good intention. (Nice "Hello's" or "Didn't you get my e-mail" or "Will you be going?" messages are fine.) I won't further develop the idea here.

    The point is that I will reserve the right to delete. No one will be posting MLM vitamin advertisements in the critical essay or photography sections. Or making threats. This way, I will be able to keep the foum alive without it either exploding into a miniature nova, or imploding into a black hole of death.

    Rus

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  78. Frank & Everyone-

    This is my last post. But I want to say:

    I don't hate you. (Frank) I was angry, but whatever. I said my points in my last post so I won't say them again.

    You're the one of the few editors who actually consider online writers' stuff, and I'm thankful for all the times you've linked to my blog in the past. So that hasn't changed. But these references to shit/masturbation/ whatever... I don't have a clue where that's coming from. I think I said the word 'jack shit' and 'give a shit' or something in that post, but nothing in reference to bizarre fetishes. More than anything, to Susan I was just tweaking her. I think far worse has been said about me in these last few exchanges.

    Now people are throwing in references to me being on meds, which is getting too personal here. I never told Susan to get 'on meds' or off meds, or whatever.

    I mean, really, you all can say what you want about me. I think the comments speak for themselves. And I've heard far worse. I've had death threats and harassment in the past, (Art Durkee knows all about it) so I'm kind of hardened to it. But that doesn't mean I'm going to stick around and listen to it anymore. It's boring.

    So with that, I'm outta here. If Dan wants to stay in the game then that's his choice. I thought there was some interesting discourse in the beginning about writers but it's gotten to be much, and anything I say is fruitless and will be twisted around.

    But I can only speak for myself, here. Anyhow, had I known this crap would have blown up into what it's become, I never would have even posted anything to begin with. It just gets nowhere. So with that, some of you- Rus, Steven, a few of the women here, I've enjoyed some of your exchanges. Funny too, amid all this, some were still actually trying to discuss literature.

    So Good Night, Good Luck, Best Wishes & Such.

    Jessica

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  79. Rudyard Kipling7:34 PM

    No interest in Bermuda. It's the Dark Continent for me from here on in. All the rancour reminds me of a poem I wrote called It or On or something.

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  80. I realize perfectly well, Dan, that you're always right and you never lie. I realize, too, that the big mistake all of us are making is not to agree with everything you say.
    However, I'll follow Jessica's lead and sign off on this for good - and I intend to continue posting links to Jesica's poems. So there.

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  81. Frank: 'I realize perfectly well, Dan, that you're always right and you never lie. I realize, too, that the big mistake all of us are making is not to agree with everything you say.
    However, I'll follow Jessica's lead and sign off on this for good - and I intend to continue posting links to Jesica's poems. So there.'

    Sigh**** Frank, it's not about me being right or wrong, intellectually. It's about you being wrong ethically, as well as the few others, who have tried to slant things, and, yes, outright lie- as in the case of those who claim scatology or blatant sexual references. But the worst is to remove things that you simply disagree with, and claim manifestly false reasons for doing so. I simply called you on it. So there, deux.

    By trying to offhandedly slough off your responsibility with a snarky quote like 'you're always right and you never lie,' you are again trying to evade your actions by implying childishness on our part.

    Yet, the very remark, and the very lack of admission of the harm that such bias and curtailing of speech brings is itself childish.

    It was Susan, then Kenn, and others, that always started in with the personalized gibes, waving about of degrees, and psychobabble. Yet, even with such claimed imprimaturs, they still were not capable of simple straightforward honesty and logic. Is ethics not covered in most college curricula thse days?

    And left untouched, this exchange will stand, and people with smarts and humor will see how positively smallminded and petty you and the others have been. There are even a few now, apparently. That's a good sign.

    The very reason my site is popular is because I get all the folks who crave real discussion of arts and literature. Save the hacks and appratchiks, the Roger Eberts and Donald Halls, the Amy Tans and Dave Eggerses for the bad sites, which numner in the millions. That fact alone is why with, perhaps an online literary audience of a third or a half of a percent of all online readers, I dwarf many other sites. Being part of the problem, even if tacitly and softly, may make you, or Susan, or Ken, or whomever, feel good, but it only lessens the reading experiences for all of us.

    To the original point- consider how it was Susan's emotionalism that sidetracked everything, and the answer as to why the dearth of quality fictionists who are female is obvious.

    As for humor- Rudyard, Finland is the Black Hole for me, or maybe Pakistan. The people I've known from those two countries have generally been nuts. The Finns because of the lack of winter sunlight, and the Pakistanis because of an inferiority complex next to Indians. They are Asia's Irish.

    Ohmygod, now I'm rippin' on the Micks!

    Rus: I had no choice with the emails I used to post, for when lawyers get involved all speech is patently not free. In this nation the rich are the only free ones for only they can afford to buy the truth. Or, if you own a blog and an eraser.

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  82. Like Frank, I am a professional editor. I reject many contributions and receive a lot of insults for my pains.
    An editor has to decide when to draw the line.
    I think many of Dan's later comments are completely out of order -- essentially he is insulting Frank for making editorial decisions about his own publication.
    He is then contradicting himself by saying he does not allow comments on his own blog (Blogging 101 rule broken), and that he's removed comments in the past on his own blog.

    Be that as it may, I would like to log here that as far as I am concerned Frank is the editor and it is up to him to decide what gets posted or not, whether or not one happens to agree, and it is discourteous to insult him for so doing.

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  83. Maxine: 'Like Frank, I am a professional editor. I reject many contributions and receive a lot of insults for my pains.
    An editor has to decide when to draw the line.
    I think many of Dan's later comments are completely out of order -- essentially he is insulting Frank for making editorial decisions about his own publication.

    ***Bias and censorship are not valid editorial decisions. There was nothing libelous, defamatory, nor profane that Jess nor I posted. If one cannot be fair and objective, one has no place editing. Editing is based upon the value of the words, and monitoring blog posts is not the equivalent of taking a red pen to ill-wrought verse. This is a classic blog tactic. Someone does something out of bounds- first Balee with her insults and condescension, and when she's called on it the caller is called out of bounds by cronies. Then, when Frank does even worse, censor replies and deny that Balee was out of bounds, if you call him ***shudder*** a censor, then the caller is, again, out of bounds. Solipsism is fascinating, if you're Rush Limbaugh or a PC Elitist.

    He is then contradicting himself by saying he does not allow comments on his own blog (Blogging 101 rule broken), and that he's removed comments in the past on his own blog.

    ***Maxine. I am not a blogger. Bloggers write poorly worded 'posts'. I write essays and reviews. I do not allow comments because people get nuts and lose the ability to even read basic sentences, as Susan, Kenn, and you, apparanetly, have. Taking down a death threat or a claim of libel, when threatened with a lawsuit by someone is far different than Frank's censoring our posts simply because he's defending a crony, then lying about the reasons why. Could I be any clearer? I do, however, allow essays to be posted that have commented negatively on me and my website. You are free to submit a review on this topic or any other here:

    http://www.cosmoetica.com/Contact-Submissions.htm#Submission%20Guidelines

    ***Is there anything else that needs clarification?

    Be that as it may, I would like to log here that as far as I am concerned Frank is the editor and it is up to him to decide what gets posted or not, whether or not one happens to agree, and it is discourteous to insult him for so doing.

    ***If you scroll up, you will see that no one has challenged Frank's right to post or remove things, merely his wisdom and ethics. To call a censor a censor and maintain that such an act and appelation deserves opprobrium is no insult, nor defamation, merely a definition, one instigated by the censor. Could I be clearer?

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  84. Dan, sadly for your argument, if someone is the editor of a publication, it is up to them to define what is a valid editorial criterion for that publication, not a potential contributor.

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  85. Maxine, given your density, my query- 'Could I be clearer?', preceded by my defining the difference between legitimate editorial dioscretion and biased censorship, seems to have gone over your pate.

    Sadly for your argument, if someone is the editor of a publication, it is up to them to act without bias, not clear favoritism. Add to that deceit about what the censored item is/was, and any reader/contributor should be moved to call the actions for what they were.

    But keep on tap dancing. With Ben Vereen dead, someone has to make white noise.

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