Cannes Beach on January 27th, 1968.
Archive for September, 2009
According to this article, they were “Does nobody understand?”
Juan Goytisolo has a brother named Luis Goytisolo? I didn’t have a clue.
The Goytisolo name was my hope for the Nobel, because i’m a childish bastard who will root for the only author he’s read. I like Murakami and Pynchon, but it feels weird to root for them for a Nobel Prize in Literature. Pynchon’s a holdover from my wacky years of reading Kurt Vonnegut and Robert Anton Wilson novels, and Murakami is… hmmm… someone i read when i want to go on cruise control.
Fromw aht Literary Saloon has posted of brother Luis though, Juan still seems more interesting.
(and a third brother? José Agustín Goytisolo? Also a writer? Very literary family there.)
As for that Millions list of the best books of the past decade… i don’t have much right to comment on that. It turns out that I haven’t read all that much that’s been published so recently, but might as well give it a go:
- Gilead. Intend to read it sooner or later, but it seems a little too quiet for my tastes.
- Stranger Things Happen. Like Magic for Beginners better, if only because it includes a story about zombies shopping at a convenience store.
- The Fortress of Solitude. It’s half of a pretty good book.
- Middlesex. It was on the TBR list, but there are too many people too enthusiastic about it who have read some spectacularly boring books. So i pass…
- Atonement. Bullshit. McEwan is bullshit.
- The Brief, Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao. Oh, for fuck’s sake. I’ve made my feelings clear on this before.
- Never Let Me Go. If you work in a bookstore long enough, and put a certain book on a feature table because of a marketing directive so many times, you lose any desire to want to read that book. That said, it seems mildly interesting.
- The Road. Really? It was entertaining, but it hasn’t haunted me as the end all of post-apocalyptic literature like many people. Maybe i played too much Gamma World as a kid. More cannibalism than Thundarr the Barbarian though.
- Pastoralia. George Saunders used to seem awesome. He’s too much of a New Yorker staple now, and i preferred CivilWarLand in Bad Decline anyway. He ran that theme park schtick into the ground.
- 2666. It might wind up on top for me, if i had a proper list, even though i know it’s really a mess. It’s one of my most memorable reads this decade.
- The Corrections. Blah. Unlike McEwan, i haven’t actually read much Franzen, but he also seems to represent what i despise in contemporary literature.
Stuff that i was surprised isn’t on there:
- Snow. Orhan Pamuk. Heh. Still have held off reading it, but read everything else of his. Wasn’t Pamuk a lot more popular a few years ago?
- The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay. Michael Chabon. It came out in 2000. This list goes up to 2009. Doesn’t it fall into the time range of the list, and the taste of the some of the selectors?
- Remainder. Tom McCarthy. Isn’t this still a critical darling or is it just a weird art scene thing?
It’s not a list that I feel particularly strongly about now though. It’ll take awhile before the real classics shake out.
Larry “Doc” Sportello is a private eye who sees the world through a sticky dope haze, animated by the music of an era whose hallmarks were peace, love, and revolution. As Doc’s strange case grows stranger, his 60s soundtrack–ranging from surf pop and psychedelic rock to eerie–picks up pace. Have a listen to some of the songs you’ll hear in Inherent Vice—the playlist is designed exclusively for MP3 downloads, full albums, or artist pages.)
He tops my list of hard-to-acquire-authors-to-be-sought-in-earnest.
Will win: Atwood or Murakami.
Should win: Oz, William Trevor, Carey, Pynchon.
Thursday 1st of October, 2009
|Joyce Carol Oates||7/1|
|Mario Vargas Llosa||16/1|
|A. S. Byatt||50/1|
|F. Sionil Jose||100/1|
|William H Gass||100/1|
Does absurdist literature make you smarter? Giraffe carpet cleaner, it does!
The befuddled tramps in Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot are a poetic personification of paralysis. But new research suggests the act of watching them actually does get us somewhere.
Absurdist literature, it appears, stimulates our brains.
That’s the conclusion of a study recently published in the journal Psychological Science. Psychologists Travis Proulx of the University of California, Santa Barbara and Steven Heine of the University of British Columbia report our ability to find patterns is stimulated when we are faced with the task of making sense of an absurd tale. What’s more, this heightened capability carries over to unrelated tasks.
In the first of two experiments, 40 participants (all Canadian college undergraduates) read one of two versions of a Franz Kafka story, The Country Doctor. In the first version, which was only slightly modified from the original, “the narrative gradually breaks down and ends abruptly after a series of non sequiturs,” the researchers write. “We also included a series of bizarre illustrations that were unrelated to the story.”
The second version contained extensive revisions to the original. The non sequiturs were removed, and a “conventional narrative” was added, along with relevant illustrations.
All participants were then shown a series of 45 strings of letters, which they were instructed to copy. They were informed that the strings, which consisted of six to nine letters, contained a strict but not easily decipherable pattern.
They were then introduced to a new set of letter strings, some of which followed the pattern and some of which did not. They were asked to mark which strings followed the pattern.
Those who had read the absurd story selected a higher number of strings as being consistent with the pattern. More importantly, they “demonstrated greater accuracy in identifying the genuinely pattern-congruent letter strings,” the researchers report. This suggests “the cognitive mechanisms responsible for implicitly learning statistical regularities” are enhanced when we struggle to find meaning in a fragmented narrative.
In a second study, participants were asked to recall situations in which they responded in very different ways, and instructed to consider the notion “that they had two different selves inhabiting the same body.” They, too, did better on the letter-pattern task than members of a control group. “The breakdown of expected associations that participants experienced when arguing against their own self-unity appeared to motivate them to seek out patterns of association in a novel environment,” the researchers write.
To Prolux and Heine, these finds suggest we have an innate tendency to impose order upon our experiences and create what they call “meaning frameworks.” Any threat to this process will “activate a meaning-maintenance motivation that may call upon any other available associations to restore a sense of meaning,” they write.
So it appears Viktor Frankl was right: Man is perpetually in search of meaning, and if a Kafkaesque work of literature seems strange on the surface, our brains amp up to dig deeper and discover its underlying design. Which, all things considered, is a hell of a lot better than waking up and discovering you’ve turned into a giant cockroach.
What an eccentrically designed study. They didn’t read Kafka, they read altered Kafka (or kinda-Kafka); AND WITH PICTURES! Not sure what this proves, but it makes for a good headline.