Monday, April 10, 2006


When I say I like scholarly books...

...this is not what I mean: I picked up this book at the sale on Saturday because it is the kind of book that will sell quickly on Amazon (I sell some books online from time to time, particularly books that could be considered textbook-y). So this particular, oh, let's call it, Unnamed Academic Work, contains the kind of university-ese, academic-speak jargon that is my least favorite style of writing: indecipherable, incomprehensible, exclusionary, and irritating (how's that for an opinion). Here is a random sample from said Unnamed Academic Work:

"Participation springs from this disruptive potential, an indeterminacy of representation internal to the performance. If writing and documentation cannot recuperate the disruptive effects of work of participation found in performance minimally, they can recognize the disruptive effects of the work of participation lost to representation.... What a fuller elaboration of these narratives would want to show was that the performance event could only be grasped through an exchange consisting of the mutual interruption and displacement of narratives.... This perspective simulates a relation of perfomance and audience where performance pertains to the execution of an idea implicit in the notion of 'agency' and audience suggests a mobilized critical presence intended by radical notions of 'history.' This distinction points to a conception of history where historical project as the formation of an identity and historical possibility as the capacity for continued mobilization are joined..." blah blah blah-de-blah blah.

Lordy lord. All my apologies and sympathies go to the undoubtedly embattled and beleaguered PhD student who had to write this article in order to publish or perish. This is NOT the scholarly stuff which I am enamoured of. I mean, instead, a sweetly weighty hardcover two-volume history of nineteenth-century France, published by Oxford University Press. With fold-out maps. And crisp dust jackets. Mmm, mm, that's what I'm talkin' bout.

That sounds to me like a person who can't write was trying to make themselves sound like they can write by using big words.
Ouch. That hurt my brain.
That's the kind of scholarly reading they give you in the tenth level of Hell(Dante missed that one). I just found a great book over the weekend-The Believer Book Of Writers Talking to Writers-that will totally clense your palate of such dry text.

I'm not a big Believer person(that Mc Sweeney crowd is alittle too trendy for me)but this book has great conversation between such authors as Jonathan Lethem and Paul Auster,Zadie Smith and Ian McEwan and many others.
Want a bit more? There's this, from the series introduction (by a different author than the quote in the main post, so we readers know that most of the book must be similarly unreadable): "The partitioning of performance into obligatory appearances and strict disallowances is a complex social code assumed to be 'natural' until recent notions of performativity unmasked its operations." That word, performativity, really bugs me. Makes the hackles on my "Concise Oxford" rise. And that staple of postmodern academic writing, the quotation marks around the word of emphasis, tells us readers that the writer is aware of the "irony" of their "statement" and the "meaning" of that "statment." I've thrown books aside that used that device, because it only convinces me that the writer doesn't mean what they say.

Lady T, I do like the McSwy's/Believer cabal, largely because I read Eggers's first book when it came out and I genuinely loved it, but also because I like their fierce sincerity, which seems to me to be the opposite of the above po-mo mock-ironic stance. This is a somewhat simplified view, I realize. We readers reserve the right to like or not like whoever we darn well please, though.

Did you read Jonathan Lethem's "The Disappointment Artist" (autobiographical essays)? So good...
I get what you're saying about sincerity(which is why I dug Bookmark Now so much)-I'm pretty jaded towards what looks like the in-crowd,which is so high school of me,I know!

I did read a couple of essays in Disappointment Artist and liked them. I didn't finish it-Lethem is one of those writers I like but just can't seem to get all the way thru one of his books! Not giving up-I still have DA and Fortress of Solitude so at some point,I'll try again:)
I'm halfway through "Bookmark Now" - and you're right, it's soooo good. I've been reading one essay per day, to stretch it out as long as possible...

Those McSwy's people, they ARE the in-crowd, aren't they. The cool kids. Well, somebody has to be, if it's not us, so we can forgive them for that. High school... brrrrr. Years I would NEVER choose to re-live.
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