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The Ecstasy of Literature, The Vulgarity of Life - Impressions and Expressions of Ijon
November 10th, 2002
06:25 pm

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The Ecstasy of Literature, The Vulgarity of Life
Ahh, bliss!

Just had a lesson in Prof. Perry's "Introduction to Prose" class. The lesson started off rather repetitive of previous material, and I spent the time furtively reading Livy. Then things picked up, and Perry presented new material, with several interesting examples. But the climax was him reading out chapter 11 from John Barth's The Floating Opera, that intermezzo about nature as a vulgar signifier, and how writers should avoid picking up life's vulgar, all-too-easy similes and metaphors (such as a pigeon resting on a "No Parking" sign, or dogs mating as a funeral is held nearby) at all costs.

The brilliance! Hang it all, Pole, I want to drop everything else and read Barth right now! Failing that, I want to read Barth on my spring break1.

And a confession: while writing this, I realize that the wicked Baron Ravell (ravell) has already introduced me to this very concept one fine evening at ygurvitz's front yard, in response to a very peculiar instance of life's vulgar irony that shocked me that evening, much to ygurvitz's delight.

1 Ha! My spring break is already booked with everything I'm not getting around to during the semester.

Current Mood: ecstatic
Current Music: university computer room noises

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From:veryty
Date:November 11th, 2002 09:23 am (UTC)

I'd hesitate about getting too ga-ga over J. Barth...

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...having myself had a violently negative reaction to reading his "End of the Road" when I was, oh, in my mid-20's give-or-take a coupla yrs.

Talk about manipulating and abusing the reader! All right, I was vulnerable in some ways, but did not shrink from unpleasantnesses in text. (e.g. I read & even owned some of Charles Bukowski's work.) The end of that novel was a real literary kick in the gut. Made me feel like never reading another novel; never trusting another author again.

YMMV, heaven knows! (reminds me to get back to gaal about "Lolita" -- but the film, not the book! ;-)

But maybe you oughta quit while you're ahead, having experienced such an uplifting jolt as you described above. Or, hey, go read his entire opus! You may be on to a good thing, guy...

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From:ijon
Date:November 14th, 2002 10:39 am (UTC)
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That single chapter of his certainly warrants my attention for the span of a novel, at least. I'll then be able to decide about the rest of his oeuvre.

This is all theoretical for the coming three months, though...
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From:veryty
Date:November 14th, 2002 10:51 am (UTC)

Well, then -- there are a selection his novels...

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...which a more sympathetic reader of John Barth will no doubt be helpful in advising your choice, if you're interested in any titles other than the one whence came that excerpted chapter you so appreciated.

I had a similar experience with the works of Thomas Pynchon. Loved "The Crying of Lot 49," gave up on "V" -- and didn't get past the second page of "Gravity's Rainbow" (the first page having evoked plenty annoyance and irritability on my part!).

YMMV, bien sur!
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