The further we get from the world Melville actually lived in, the more we seem to be living in the world he told us about. American culture tends to embrace a kind of a-historicism that on the one hand is forward-looking and optimistic and many other fine things, but on the other hand costs us dearly in context, heritage and continuity. This is especially true of the Progressive movement, which has fought more or less unceasingly since the nation’s founding to bring America closer to realizing the ideals it claims to hold most dear. And yet every generation of progressives must suffer to be told that we are some kind of developmental aberration in cultural history—that we are naive and our methods disreputable, that the vast majority stands against us; on and on.
This is as total and pernicious an inversion of the truth as I can think of, and one more reason why we come here today, to invoke the long American history of refusal that informs and enlivens Occupy. Many in this movement have a vivid sense of that history, others may be getting involved in politics for the first time in their lives, but in any case it’s healthy to be reminded that the first step toward building a better world is recognizing that the present state of affairs is intolerable and that we cannot in good conscience continue to take part in it.
—From “Introduction to Marathon Reading of “Bartleby, the Scrivener” at 60 Wall Street, November 10, 2011” by Justin Taylor; full text of the introduction after the jump
Thursday, November 10, 3PM, marathon reading of Bartleby, the Scrivener at the public atrium at 60 Wall Street (near Zuccotti Park). More readers to come. All are welcome to listen and/or read; if you want to just show up we’ll have sections available to read. Organized by Justin Taylor, Housing Works Bookstore Cafe, McNally Jackson with support from the People’s Library and Melville House.
- Jami Attenberg
- Amanda Bullock
- Joshua Cohen
- Stephen Elliott
- David Goodwillie
- Michele Hardesty
- Michelle Legro
- Sam MacLaughlin
- Eileen Myles
- Tom Roberge
- Sarah Sarai
- Erich Strom
- Brendan Jay Sullivan
- Justin Taylor
- Adam Wilson
- James Yeh
- Daniel Zilio
We agree. Come by 60 Wall Street on Thursday, November 10 for a marathon reading of Bartleby, the Scrivener. More details forthcoming. If you’d like to participate, contact me.
Also next week, a panel with n+1 on the Occupy movement at the bookstore on Monday, November 7.
Yes! That’s a great book.
This question is impossible to answer. I mean, how seriously can anyone be considered a quote-unquote ladyexpert, no matter how you measure genuine ladyexpertise? Ask Dustin.
Step into my Moby-Dick gift department. I’m not sure how fond they are of M-D, but:
- This edition of Moby-Dick is as handsome as they come, and it’s not the most common. I always have it at McNally J.
- If you really love them (i.e. you are very rich), and they really love Moby-Dick, you could track down the original Arion Press edition, which is, ahem, not cheap.
- Matt Kish—whose big & beautiful Moby-Dick in Pictures is out now—is selling drawings from the book. Nothing says “congrats on your nuptials” like spurting whale blood, right? Right.
- I’ve always had my eyes on this Moby-Diptych. And here’s a different, less expensive version from America.
- Under no circumstances, however, would I recommend getting them 2010: Moby Dick.
- Eugenides continues to insist that Leonard isn’t based on DFW. He is either being disingenuous now or sloppy then. Did he really not expect people to associate—whether or not he intended any resemblance—a depressive bandana-wearing chew-chewer with DFW? Either way it’s odd. (Salivagate: Never Forget.)
- This piece in New York about Eugenides/Franzen/DFW/ et al. is worth reading. Wallace sends Franzen a letter that says, “You seem so mad at me. Why do you want to be my friend?”
- Don’t let your excitement be soured by my little gripes, though: The Marriage Plot was a pleasure to read.
So The Marriage Plot comes out tomorrow, and reviews have already begun to pop up. One of the first was this messily positive one from Laura Miller on Salon. “Eugenides’ full-court-press attempt to prove it wrong is as gloriously sunny, harmonious and rational as a Handel suite,” she says. Basketball! Weather! Music! Mixed similes aside, she weirdly insists that—despite being a full-court press for marriage-plotted novels—the book has nothing to prove. But clearly it’s making an argument on its own behalf (wait til the last page) and on behalf of a genre—The Marriage Plot and the marriage plot.
Miller quotes a scene depicting main character Madeleine retreating to the library to read some 19th-century novels—“How wonderful it was when one sentence followed logically from the sentence before! What exquisite guilt she felt, wickedly enjoying narrative!”—and adds, “Exquisite guilt and wicked enjoyment are more or less what Eugenides intends the readers of The Marriage Plot to experience, too.” But as Miller knows (“Who feels guilty about their reading choices anymore (unless, perhaps, it’s the Twilight series)?”), no one feels guilty about reading satisfying, well-wrought realistic fiction. It’s the big books that readers of every brow read: See Freedom*, see The Art of Fielding**, see A Visit from the Goon Squad, a realistic novel on shuffle. (I can’t be the first person to call it that?) Eugenides—who did not win a Pulitzer for his achievement in beards, didn’t end up with a billboard in Times Square (!) for nothing—knows this. So for him to position his book as some kind of sinful treat…well, wait, what sin? And if it’s a defense of the regular novel (and it’s clearly trying to be) a defense against whom? The book asks for a too-easy sympathy for readers of regular novels from readers of regular novels, camaraderie in a made-up crisis. It doesn’t exactly feel like love.
*Also it’s worth noting that The Corrections feels born of some serious intellectual wrestling on Franzen’s part—-Is it okay to feel okay about this?—-where Marriage Plot just takes it for granted, winking the whole time. The Corrections felt harder won, and more enjoyable for it.
**A book that is ostensibly less “about” books, but nevertheless manages to feel more profoundly informed by them, both on a superficial plot level and an allusive intellectual one.
From Hell’s heart I slice at thee, cake!
Ungraspable phantom, indeed. My favorite party is the sea foam. Can anyone figure out what the quoted passage is? There’s probably a better way to try to read it then trying to turn your head upside down.
“‘Now, three to three, ye stand. Commend the murderous chalices! Bestow them, ye who are now made parties to this indissoluble league. Ha! Starbuck! but the deed is done! Yon ratifying sun now waits to sit upon it. Drink, ye harpooneers! drink and swear, ye men that man the deathful whaleboat’s bow - Death to Moby Dick! God hunt us all, if we do not hunt Moby Dick to his death!’ The long, barbed steel goblets were lifted; and to cries and maledictions against the white whale, the spirits were simultaneously quaffed down with a hiss. Starbuck paled, and turned, and shivered. Once more, and finally, the replenished pewter went the rounds among the frantic crew; when, waving his free hand to them, they all dispersed; and Ahab retired within his cabin to eat cake.” (I searched this for “three to three.” And maybe added cake.)