NOTES from the ALLEY #2
a few thoughts, still steaming
in no particular order…
“The Brown Egg”
dancing in the wok
no one sees my tear fall
I just keep stirring
Jesus Honoria Christ. How did I miss this one? Blondie & Kermit, 1980. That frog really was the Graham Norton of his day. 🖤🖤🖤
Got a little pushback on Twitter from my post about Gene Wolfe’s “Peace” which on the one hand is great because it produced a lively volley and propelled my reach a lot further than I could on my own.
On the other hand, I’ve been admonished for my “bad take” and “sour grapes” which all seems to veer past “We respectfully disagree” to a rather vinegary finger-wagging, which, well, is to be expected in a pile of Twitter replies. Never mind that I lavished praise on the Claytemple Media podcast hosts, Brandon Budda and Glenn McDorman, who were appreciative of my review: some people just don’t love it when you don’t love the things they do.
It bears noting I said nearly nothing about the book itself. Most of my eye-rolling in the post was in fact reserved for James Joyce, and I will go to my grave vehemently believing he was a brilliant charlatan. (Cue the REAL pushback.)
(SIDENOTE: Actually, I’m starting to think the house in one of my absolute favorite books—John Crowley’s “Little, Big” (1981)—might have been informed by “Peace” main character Alden Dennis Were's house; the timing is right for Crowley to have read “Peace” in the late 70s, with its museum-like construction of rooms, and be inspired to create the labyrinthine floorplan and stylings of his Edgewood. As books go, “Little, Big” is also sometimes called difficult, though by many orders of magnitude less; I am not against “difficult” books out of hand.)
Anyway, never said “The Emperor Has No Clothes,” nor even “The Emperor Is ALL Clothes”—maybe something more like, “Wow, the Emperor is wearing an awful lot of clothes—you keep saying he’s the bomb, but personally I’m feeling hot and woozy just looking at him. Maybe we don’t put him on the cover of Emperor Vogue, maybe a nice little interior pictorial?”
I still think the fragmented, difficult narration of “Peace” was a risky stylistic choice, one Wolfe knew would exasperate even some people who measure up to his vague definition of “educated.” I did not hate it, but did not especially enjoy it either, and will not be including it in any “great” literary canon I’m ever put in charge of, which I won’t. 😜
But if I’m being honest with myself and you, the book and the podcast did trigger me a bit around the whole question of accessibility and implicit/unstated standards in education, and by a strain of academic elitism which, considering a general global pushback to humanist and liberal ideas, we leave unexamined at our peril. I redrafted that post so many times, I think I muddied the waters and tripped myself up over what my real message was until I finally just got frustrated and said: ‘Ford it, SEND…”
Lesson learned, especially around the tender subject of people’s literary darlings; the only other time I got this much pushback was when I said I found Madeline Miller’s “The Song of Achilles” boring and people did NOT like it. Strangely, no one pushed back on my tepid feelings around Donna Tartt’s “The Secret History.” Huh.
You had a nuanced take in your previous post. And even if you don't think it's great, you're entitled to your opinion. People can have opinions!!!
I am one of these people that loved "The Secret History", actually thinking of re-reading it... but I won't get Tarentino-esque medieval on you for not thinking like I do! I tried Joyce a few times and conceded defeat, lol. I'm tackling Cormac McCarthy's Blood Meridian right now, and considering the general adulation, I'll probably get a little flack of my own! Not that I don't like it, I just find the poetry overwrought...