Lit Podcasts for 8/8/10 – Henry Roth, Steven Moore, Henry Green, Rick Moody

And a couple from Scott at Conversational Reading:

Little by little over the past few months I’ve been listening to the 45C English classes of UC Berkeley professors John Bishop and Charles Altieri. They’re quite good and you too can listen to them on iTunes U via the links.

The classes deal with modernism in English literature, starting with the poets (Dickinson, Hardy, Pound, Yeats, etc) and moving on to the novelists (James, Hemingway, Conrad, Woolf, etc), and they’re extremely entertaining and informative. So much so, in fact, that I was disappointed to see that as I’ve now moved on to 45B it appears that Cal is only offering Altieri’s lectures and not Bishop’s as well.

Someone should attempt to rectify that, as the two men are ideal foils for one another. Altieri delivers with a lovable Woody Allen, schizoid New Yorker style (although I see no reason to believe he’d treat the young ladies in his class as Allen would), whereas Bishop utilizes an incredibly dense stream of monotone. (Indeed, you have not lived until you hear the latter ironically quip, “If you know what I mean and I think you do.”) And of course, given that this is modernism and a good 2/3 of the authors have stifled sex lives that are all over their works, the virtues of each’s delivery are only more pronounced.

But to be serious for a moment, these are great lectures. Download them to your iPod and enjoy them on your commute to and from work.

Los Angeles, France, and the Search for a New Noir

Salonica has a great post from Larry Fondation about LA and the search for a writer that encompass the city. What makes it even more interesting is it was published in France as a kind of what Americans should do next. While Noir is a and LA are fascinating as our the American writers of the 30’s I’m not sure if they are the salvation Fondation sees.

Outside a select and celebrated few – Cain, Chandler and West among them — most 1930s authors have been neglected, forgotten, ignored or downplayed in the United States. Writers such as James T. Farrell, Ellen Glasgow, Jack Conroy and Henry Roth rarely get their due. Even John Dos Passos’ masterpiece, The USA Trilogy, remains vastly underappreciated.

Instead, many critics trumpet the Post-World War II era of American fiction as a kind of Golden Age.  I take the opposite view. Much of the literature of the past several decades has been overly introspective and self-indulgent. University writing programs turn out scores of harmless craftspeople, superficially skilled stylists who have nothing to say. Chain bookstore shelves are redolent with works of glittering shit, finely wrought bits of nothing, the fool’s gold of the written word.

For decades now, there has been no Fante, no Nelson Algren, no Jack London or Stephen Crane. Yet the new realities of our age, a time of limits, will force our literature once again to address the margins – as it did in the 1930s.  This will reinvigorate American literature, and great public fiction will again emerge from Los Angeles.  I am naturally suspicious of the glamour of gold.  But our times will almost forcibly birth a new era in American writing: the Literature of Iron — a fresh body of enduring, meaningful and deeply moving work, work that matters.

The social realism/noir of the writers, I’m not sure are the answer (although, perhaps no answer is needed), but there is a grit to them that sometimes seems to be missing. Unless you are into the Dirty Realism mentioned in the Program Era, where the external fight against society or the machinations that it closes in on one are replaced by the internal and self destructive so that in the former alcoholism is what a tough world forces on you, and in the latter humans self destruct because of weakness and inner daemons.

I do find his statement the NWA’s Straight Out of Compton the best novel of LA in the last 20 years to be spot on. Too bad that album has generated so many lesser imitations.