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Managed to pick up a cheap compilation of New Yorker profiles (secret mission: biography studies), which coincidentally enough featured Capote’s brilliant profiling of Brando: The Duke in his Domain. Great balance of profile detail, characteristic observation and secondary background and foreground. The adolescent voice of Brando, his indecisive ambivalence, his love of eating and the exotic. The nearness to fakery. The disgust with alternately the stage and then Hollywood. The brilliant focus of celebrity and their hangers-on. Of talent and ambivalence, whilst almost brilliantly effacing himself (Capote) from the picture. Great journalism.

Also, on matters Oblivious, David Foster Wallace’s brilliant (I cannot stop using that faceted word) medium-short The Soul is Not a Smithy. Sustained imaginative writing. Precise, wordy, multi-media, rigorously geometric, sympathetic for fathers, absolutely focused in both the smallest and the largest timeframe, and intriguingly sensitive and acute in dealing with trauma and personal catastrophe. Brilliant duality of the child/adult perspective. I can only sigh.

That supremely vulgar Janet Street-Porter (I’m pretty sure it was her) at the BBC gave Oblivion the most irresolute and subjective panning ever heard. Compared it to being left waiting at a bus stop when she wants her writers to ‘take her on a journey’. Said 'Give me Bret Easton Ellis anyday.' (!) Never seen anyone miss the point or the bus so clearly, re great prose, re great perspective. Another panellist correctly said DFW is a writer’s writer. Clear, JSP is not a writer. The kind of critic who’s critical acumen is always presaged by the words ‘I had a problem with…’ Yuck. Ugly. Vulgar. Yawn.

posted by rino breebaart  # 1:00 pm
I have no password! Well, anyway, I'm gonna throw this one right out as an e-mail as my mail systems are playing up at the moment, and thowing stickballs to the tails of blogs seems for the moment more fun than a straight e-mail. So yes, the Oblivion reviews so far have been pretty pissy, and even the positive ones have been engaging in some serious fence-sitting and qualification. "While brilliant...". Seems like some people have yet to forgive him for the earlier meta-indulgences (and we're talking the late 80s here) - and seem to think he's still trading off on that, when, in reality, as you know, he's a fair hike from the McSweeney's crew by now. I say read "Good Old Neon" and despair at the state of, well, not just fiction, not even "writing", but expression. Um. That meant something in my head. Fuck - boss wandering. More soon.


p.s. Are you pissed at me for not writing to you more? Because fair enough friend, I can be slack, but don't playa-hate. Please forgive...
I think most of the criticisms are along the Lit Wunderkind / Infinity & More axis... painting him not as a prose master but as some statistics-obsessed autistic child blubbering with postmodern anality. Which is to miss the broader picture, angle, perspective of a great writer working with the most modern and contemporary problems of fiction. And one of the funniest. There's a moment in Smithy where a German kid cries out for his Stepmutti which is a real corker. And also, he is primarily a writer of consciousness, of the inner voice or the inner being (imagination and character-conscience). In many ways he's a Beckettian James, and most people only see the James element of course and think why, how Victorian. They want plot and journeys when DFW is all that but purely on an inner scale.

Honestly, he makes me whimper. I want him to be my American friend.
That is the strangest and saddest feeling of all - the desire to be friends with the artist. I feel it all the time. There's a sympathy, a shared perspective. Andre 3000 programmed rage last week, and after his brilliant three hour selection, my main thought was - "we have such similar tastes in music. we'd have a great conversation about music." shamefully adolescent stuff.

Regarding the pissy criticism of Wallace, you hit the nail on the head (he listens!) with the critical-of-a-smart-ass stuff. There's a belief that only honest, unflashy Chekovian writing can be truly great, and that Wallace's intellectual rigour and complex psychological tracking somehow gets in the way of "real art". When in reality his mind is always at the service of the writing, of the characters. Perhaps it's just the old C.P Snow Arts/Science bias. The disbelief that anyone why can understand a binomial theorem could write fiction as well as your standard straight-art names.

Predjudices. They hurt everyone.
I finally got around to that DFW interview on the net at The Connection, my computer doesn't have RealPlayer 'cos I can't download programs and frankly, it's such a bitch of a program I wouldn't bother. I loved listening to him squirm, him a writer of acute particularity having to deal with these vaguely broad and loose reactions which weren't even questions, on the phone. I loved the anticipation of mediation, here's a segue, here comes the music so I'll conclude with a fitting conclusion. I was amazed with the host's long pauses in struggling to articulate a point, to find the words. And because I was still working while listening to it, DFWs voice becomes a steady drone when he reads his bohemouth sentences. I dropped out on several occasions.

Also I got around to the brilliant short essay The Nature of the Fun, about writing. Excellent summary of the nature of the Bitch Medium as well as the growing relationship of self and talent in the frame of published authorship. Get it now.

In terms of friendship, I think from an interactive or dialogue point of view, it's a great way of assuming mutuality, that there's a lot of ground shared or at least familiar and hence the basis for mutual endorsement/journeying/reminiscing. It's the old musician's trick, you talk about your favourite musicians.
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Alternatively, read about it at: The Slow Review or the long blog. Or even Nurture Health

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