[update: Blogger has been miserable lately. Very slow and spotty. So I hope this goes through.]
Back from Erie. Gray. Gray gray gray. But it was good to see the family. Good writing weather, actually.
Jonathan Safran Foer's latest novel sparked this review, an except of which is below:
It's good to see that Foer is sticking to his original, successful formula of milking historical tragedy for yucks and book sales while remaining blissfully indifferent to the historical details of those tragedies: well, it's good because the emerging pattern removes any doubt that Foer has no qualms about exploiting the sympathy that naturally gravitates towards victims of tragedy to lend weight to his puerile and essentially solipsistic narrative and linguistic gymnastics. Foer is painfully inadequate to the task of grappling with the horrors amidst which we find ourselves: a close familiarity with the work of writers who patiently attend to the gritty reality and the real victims of history's traumas (Elie Wiesel, W.G. Sebald, even Kurt Vonnegut for Pete's sake) would make this clear, but the vacuous amnesia of the Eternal Media Present ensures that such familiarity is a rarity. I'm sure that deep in his heart Foer is a decent person who actually cares about the types of people his cartoonish characters are meant to represent. But this genuine decency is unfortunately marred by a number of different factors: a self-indulgent impatience with the details of history, an excessive faith in the redemptive power of his own considerable inventiveness (fueled no doubt by his success), a sensibility informed too much by bad Hollywood and not enough by good literature, a facile and predictable application of postmodern literary technique, and a public and critical establishment so starved for anything remotely serious and original in contemporary fiction that they're eager to be suckered in by shoddy pretenders to the throne.