Sick, Sick, Sick

Classics Comix Lit-Crit New York City Poetry Transgressive

1. We don't hear enough about cartoonist Jules Feiffer these days, so this interview is a nice refresher. (Via Slut).

2. Hamlet, who was also sick, sick, sick, will never go out of style. However, the Hamlet currently running at New York City's Shakespeare in the Park got a terrible New York Times review. My favorite recent Hamlet was right here.

3. Richard Hell, who is not sick, sick, sick but is often mistaken as such, has collaborated with Christopher Wool on a new poetry project called Perpenilsis. They'll be at the Strand in New York City on Wednesday, June 25.

4. Latter-day Beat writer Charles Plymell, who is also not sick, sick, sick, is interviewed at a blog titled Even for the Hipsters, Hustlers and Highjivers. Damn straight.

5. Check out the good people -- Samantha Hunt, Joyce Carol Oates, Tommy Chong, a tribute to Jason Shinder -- who'll be reading at Bryant Park in midtown Manhattan.

6. The Loss of Hope and Love blog offers "daily cut-up poetry".

7. The irascible Roger Kimball on criticismism:

The first thing to notice about the vogue for “critical thinking” is that it tends to foster not criticism but what one wit called “criticismism”: the “ism” or ideology of being critical, which, like most isms, turns out to be a parody or betrayal of the very thing it claims to champion.

The above does appear, however, to be the best sentence in the article.

8. Frank Wilson asks: will bloggers care that the Associated Press is announcing strict rules about online quotation? I can answer that very quickly. No.

9. I agree with Chad Post about the "New Classics". It's gotta get better than this.

10. Sign and Sight has discovered a new explanation for Samuel Beckett's Waiting For Godot -- but you have to read French to understand the explanation (via Scott McLemee).

Sick, sick, sick.
18 Responses to "Sick, Sick, Sick"

by Mikey on

New Classics - you can’t just say “it’s gotta get better than this.” As a literary critic of the highest repute, you have to say “here’s my top 100 from the last 25 years.”

Personally I’ve only read one book on the list - The Road. And I’d rank that as a number one read. It’s a great book.

I also read the first couple of stories in Carver’s Cathedral. Anybody else read that book? I mean, I like my own stories, and Bill Ectric’s, and a lot of other internet writers, better than RC’s.

by Levi Asher on

I'm game, Mikey. Where's J. M. Coetzee's "Disgrace", Paul Auster's "City of Glass", Nicholson Baker's "Mezzanine", Orhan Pamuk's "My Name Is Red", and, as you say, Raymond Carver's "Cathedral"? And that's just a few.

The only titles I *do* agree with on this list are Maus, Cold Mountain and Cholera.

As for The Road, #1, I know many readers feel the way you do, but personally it's in my list of worst 25.

by Mikey on

That's the spirit Levi! Gives me something to look for when I go to the library. But I can rate The Road #1 'cause I've read it. You can't dismiss it 'cause you haven't read it.

And what about The Da Vinci Code? How can such a singularly important story about human history and the evil impact of religion, not be a great great book? (I've never read it, but the movie certainly seems like an excellent way to teach the masses about history and religion.)

BTW, Cathedral checked in at #75, but I don't think I'd recommend it.

7. Maus, Art Spiegelman (1986/1991)
10. The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, Haruki Murakami (1997)
16. The Handmaid's Tale, Margaret Atwood (1986)
17. Love in the Time of Cholera, Gabriel García Márquez (1988)
21. On Writing, Stephen King (2000)
24. Lonesome Dove, Larry McMurtry (1985)
25. The Joy Luck Club, Amy Tan (1989)
31. The Things They Carried, Tim O'Brien (1990)
36. Angela's Ashes, Frank McCourt (1996)
37. Persepolis, Marjane Satrapi (2003)
49. Clockers, Richard Price (1992)
50. The Corrections, Jonathan Franzen (2001)
60. Nickel & Dimed, Barbara Ehrenreich (2001)
64. Underworld, Don DeLillo (1997)
75. Cathedral, Raymond Carver (1983)
78. Eat, Pray, Love, Elizabeth Gilbert (2006)
80. Bright Lights, Big City, Jay McInerney (1984)
92. Presumed Innocent, Scott Turow (1987)
I read the 18 above. It's the most I've ever read of a Top 100 list. Bill Ectric's a good writer but Ray Carver's stuff used to be the s*** for me.
Underworld is a first rate novel that would be an eexcellent arthouse movie. I liked Love in the Time of Cholera when I first read it but Murakami's Norwegian Wood is a better love story and the Windup Bird Chronicles his second best book. King's On Writing is worth the read if you want to write well. I got at least two pointers from it.

by Dan on

The New Classics list is a testament to the poverty of writing in recent years. Cormac McCarthy is the American Idol equivalent of a writer. And the DaVinci code? (I did read it - in horror, like watching a train wreck). It is just as bad as you think it is. I'm surprised they didn't include The Bridges of Madison County or Jonathan Livingston Seagull in their stupid list.

Love in the Time of Cholera is a genuine classic; Jesus's Son is good but not memorable, but that's about it.

Go back a few more years and you'll have Hemingway, Nabokov, Fitzgerald, Wolfe, Joyce, etc. Are better books now being written and ignored?

For a refreshing change in your reading: I was given Simone de Beauvoir's The Mandarins for Father's Day. Didn't know it existed. de Beuvoir is known principally for her non-fiction; I was delighted to find her a wonderful fiction writer - not at all turgid and preachy, as one might expect. Buy it and read it!

by rubiao on

Wow. I always had a sadistic desire to know which newer books had a chance to be added to the greater classics list (the Modern Library one), in full awareness that it would probably be a disappointment. Interesting that they allowed non-fiction as well as weird pop trash. And The Da Vinci Code is on the list, near the end, but an excellent way to teach religion? C'mon.

A lot of these books just seem to be excuses to put their author on the list, such is the case with TC Boyle, Amis, Saramago, Marquez, Doctorow, DF Wallace, etc. And in that case, wheres Auster? Rushdie? Gaddis? Gass? Pynchon?

I've read about 15 of these books and plan to read a few more. I think I would have added a Foer book, if not both. Maybe Life of Pi, House of Leaves, and as long as there are foreign authors on the list, Pamuk and Bolaño deserve a nod.

I would immediately remove Fast Food Nation, America the Book, Da Vinci Code, and probably The Tipping Point. And I've not read King's On Writing, but it is a suspicious choice as being the only book about writing on the list, as well as not his normal bill of fare.

And I think E.L. Doctorow is the only writer on the Modern Library list and this one. Kind of interesting.

The real winner this week though is anyone who saw Tom Waits. I saw him on Sunday night and it was truly amazing (http://thatwhichisread.blogspot.com/2008/06/tom-waits.html). If you are thinking of traveling to one of the shows, I highly recommend it. You might not have a lot of chances left.

by rubiao on

As for agreeing with the list, Cloud Atlas was great, Into Thin Air and Heartbreaking Work deserve their spots, The Things They Carried was good, Adventures of Kavalier and Clay should be higher, Bonfire of the Vanities has to be there but I don't get what the big deal is, A Prayer for Owen Meany is classic at this point, and Murakami seems a bit high.

Interesting how many of these are already movies, including 6 of the top 10 (they are filming The Road and American Pastoral right now). And I can't even imagine which of these could eventually go on the Modern Library top 100. Maybe American Pastoral? Maybe Eggers? Probably Beloved.

Thanks for the info on Charles Plymell. I'm going to check out "The Last of the Mocassins".

Some of the selections on the "new classics" make me Sick,Sick,Sick, but I agree with Warren on "On Writing" by Stephen King. It is a really good book.

I also agree on Neuromancer by William Gibson. That book is a stone classic.

How come Ectric's two books weren't on the list? What's the deal here?

I'm glad to see William Gibson's Neuromancer made the list. To me, an even better Gibson book is The Difference Engine, but I know Neuromancer is considered seminal cyberpunk. Besides that, The Difference Engine was co-authored by two writers, William Gibson and Bruce Sterling. That brings up a point for speculation: Can co-written novels become classics?

Mikey, Warren, Michael, and others who like my work, thank you very much.
While I do think my books compare quite favorably with many others on the market, I've got to say, I'm still working on my classic masterpiece.

by TKG on

I read Neuromancer on a recommendation shortly after it came out and thought it was horrible. It was boring and unbearably trite.

I guess if we are to slam one book, we ought to put up one as an alternative. I can't think of any now, so I'd like to say sorry to Charles Plymell for a little set to we had many years ago over Hank Williams personal habits near the end of his life. Mr Plymell was totally right, me wrong and dumb.

So what book?

What will last? Henry Porter and the Worcester Sauce will. And interestingly, those unicycles of Unfortunate Events by Snickers. (But is it art?)

I mean, fiction, made up stories. Interesting concept. Gotta go with what I read.

I did read one by an Ashen fellow, Summer of the Mets, which I surely enjoyed. And Electric Bill wrote a collection with the multidimensional nursing home.

Dim Sum of All Things by a mainstream publisher, I found out later was part of a supposed fad called chick-lit. I actually read it all the way though and liked it. Maybe because I remember the man with the giant goiter as well. Enough to actually get the sequel which was boring (not trite) but just not with the same spunk. I understand why.

Um...

Oh yeah, I read Ono Ono Girl's Hula. Liked it (probably wouldn't as much now) liked (and still like this aspect) what she was trying to do, how she was writing and expressing herself using multiple languages, spanish, hawai talk and mandarin. The complaint about the latter is she used pinyin, not the characters which is what she otter done, eh?

OK, classic kid book will be Holes by Sachar.

by TKG on

Levi, Summer of the Mets was a very good book. I printed out your first version available and read it and marked it up, looking for any typos etc...to relate to you as well. I still have this marked up print out somewhere. I remember few typos, it was well done. One in a scene with flowers, the wonderfull passage of the young protagonist with his girlfriend. Somehow the word flower was substituted for what should have been another word.

That scene here where they take a walk, and the other scene where he and his best friend who is really a jerk go to the movie and he goes outside and ruins his friends bike are classic.

Back then Lit Kicks wasn't yet interactive like this and I wanted to be thorough so I never found a timely chance to spend a few hours on a write up to you on it.

I still can see in my minds eye that one kid tossing, flicking, handful of popcorn spontaneously in to the other boy's face while they are talking to the two girls, and feel still what a Richard that one fellow was and how pissed that would make the hero boy.

Biil, your books had some typos I noticed. I never know if you want people to tell you (eg page 67 line five has this in stead of that). I also don't write in books.

But, lest you feel bad for there being typos, I see typos in major publication works. Most recently I seem to remember a rather obvious typo in Michael Chabon's Maps and Legends. Major publishers are obviously letting spell checkers edit for them. Sew yew git wards than are spilled light of they are a different word than they otter bee. (So you get words that are spelled right if they are a different word than they ought to be). Spell check won't properly edit "you have the light to retain silent" if that is written in an aphasic moment.

All this to say um ...what was I talking about?

Oh yeah, I really liked your book and don't know what the great works of fiction over the past 25 years are. Nothing has intrigued me there much. Now it seems fiction is marketed as memoir. James Frey for example. A host of others.

When Kerouac didn't write true fiction the opposite was done. It was taken and marketed as fiction. Now made up stories are marketed as non-fiction.

by Levi Asher on

Thanks TKG! It's encouraging to hear that you remember the flowers and the popcorn. To be memorable is certainly one of any writer's top goals ...

I appreciate you pointing out typos, TKG. I do want people to tell me. It's important because soon I'm going to combine Time Adjusters and Space Savers into one book with a couple of new stories thrown in, and I would really like this one to be typo-free.

I also encourage criticism, because I'm not above rewrites at this stage of the game.

It's hard to proofread one's own work, because you know what you meant to write, and your brain thinks it sees what you thought you wrote. Skips right over stuff. Plays tricks, it does.

Forget about “sick, sick, sick”; that Top 100 of ‘New Classics’ was (to quote the Stones) sad, sad, sad. It seems the compilers followed only two basic criteria: it should be U.S. American, or, failing that, the movie that's been based on it should at least be American-made.

From a Canadian perspective, it was disgraceful to see Mordecai Richler's final two novels (Solomon Gursky Was Here [1989] and Barney's Version [1997]) completely ignored. It was also amusing to see Margaret Atwood's Cat's Eye (1988) passed over for what might be one of her weaker titles, The Handmaid's Tale. Then again, Cat's Eye wasn't filmed, was it?

I notice no latter-day Norman Mailer title made the cut. I guess 1983 was the cut-off point, so The Executioner's Song (1979) was out of the running. Apparently, of the eligible works, not even Harlot's Ghost was comparable to the great Da Vinci Code (which was really nothing more than a compilation of curious facts and theories that most of picked up from senior-high art classes and Martin Scorsese movies in the 1980s). No latter-day Anthony Burgess titles made the cut either; nor did anything by Katherine Harrison or Tama Janowitz.

I notice as well that they've included a Harry Potter title. Awww...isn't that cute?!! But how come they never included any of the new Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew titles, not to mention the venerable Goosebumps series? (And have they forgotten all those great Archie Comics Digests of the past twenty-five years?!!)

Speaking of comics, I'm glad to see that at least three graphic novels

Frank Wilson's abso-deffo on the mark.

But, wot? No David Markson?

Welp, back to the drowning board . . .

by Chauncey Bloodsworth on

In response to a lot of the above:

I am not down with reading any Harry Potter and I agree with you that "It's gotta get better than this." I really like Neuromancer. At the top of the list I would've recommended the foundational book "Lipstick Traces: A Secret history of the 20th Century" by Greil Marcus- it blew me away. It went beyond punk (though it is heavily sauced with the scene from its beginning)and touched on the counter-cultures of the 20th century, Dadaism, avant-garde writing etc that schooled me heavily when I read it.

I dig Richard Hell and appreciate he was not summed up as sick, sick, sick. Kudos for mentioning his poetry collaboration. I didn't have a link for that info or know much about it until recently. Thanks, man.

The interview from the link you posted about Charles Plymell was "damn straight" as you put it. Interesting to me because I dug "Trashing of America" by him when I read it years ago- but I had no idea he was so hip. Collaborating w/ Mike Watt? Doesn't get any better than that.

Not into "The da Vinci Code" but liked some other titles mentioned in these comments. As for music lists, Sonic Youth albums which I'd rank high would be the albums such as EVOL, BAD MOON RISING and SCREAMING FIELDS OF SONIC YOUTH. I dig the EP they put out called MASTER-DIK, as well.

I don't know much about comics so the info on here is interesting as I delve into the who's who and what's what in the world of Comix.

This is my first time on your site and I am diggin' what you've got. There is sort of an endless road to travel on here, which I like, as there are so many interesting posts and links.

Man, how do you have time to have put all the brain work behind these posts? Kudos for that and for your site. I am glad you blog because in a lot of your posts you bring up what I wish I could say if I had a blog and its written in a way I would have put it if I only knew how to write!

-Chauncey

Chauncey, you sparked my synapses when you mentioned "Neuromancer." I'm going to have to read "Lipstick Traces" now.