Translation Tuesdays: The Kindly Ones, by Jonathan Littell

These remarks will be classified in The Critic’s Notebook. Unlike a more tightly constructed and formal book review, these notes will possess a larval nature: impressionistic, half-formed, spontaneous. Continue reading Translation Tuesdays: The Kindly Ones, by Jonathan Littell

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What I’m Reading 2012 and Other Business

What I’m Reading 2012 Overview: I’m currently reading five books.  Each poses certain challenges (in some cases, self-imposed challenges) to me as a reader, reviewer, critic, historian, and aesthete.  While New Year’s Resolutions get broken seconds after they’re uttered, these challenges will form an informal backbone to my reading schedule.  As it stands, I want to increase the frequency of my blog posts from bimonthly to weekly.  (The same goes for my other blog, Coffee is for Closers.)  The positive responses from readers has really inspired me to do more. As you’ll see with these challenges, I want to “raise … Continue reading What I’m Reading 2012 and Other Business

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Critic’s Notebook: The Best Science Fiction and Fantasy Movies of the 1980s

Introduction “Interest in film, pop and television stars and science fiction peaks between the ages of 12 and 13.” Media Genres and Content Preferences by Carmelo Garitaon and Jose A. Oleaga, Patxi Juaristi (The London School of Economics and Political Science). One of the most challenging aspects of criticism is Taste.  How is it formed?  What differences are there between Good Taste and Bad Taste?  Can these differences be investigated with an objective concrete analysis, or is it a phenomenon based entirely on subjective experiences? The creation of Taste occurs when we grow up, sifting through the various cultural products … Continue reading Critic’s Notebook: The Best Science Fiction and Fantasy Movies of the 1980s

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Critic’s Notebook: Unpopular Causes, Part V

Two Personal Favorites: Spook Country (2007) and Domino (2005) Spook Country The toughest challenge for any author is to follow up a big hit with an equally big hit.  Following the epic genius of Gravity’s Rainbow, Thomas Pynchon released the misunderstood novel Vineland.  In the case of William Gibson, he experienced career resurgence with the release of Pattern Recognition, an “empathetic thriller” about advertising, intelligence, and an elusive video.  Gibson set the novel in the present and it reads like a strange relic, an artifact set in a world after 9/11 but before YouTube. Spook Country follows the same general … Continue reading Critic’s Notebook: Unpopular Causes, Part V

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Critic’s Notebook: Unpopular Causes, Part IV

Nathan Rabin and the Countercanonical Critique The AV Club has carved out a niche of reputable pop cultural criticism.  Nathan Rabin has been profiled before in the Art of Reviewing.  It focused on his unique style and examined his ongoing series My Year of Flops.  Rabin’s bombastic style plays off his subject matter, whether it is a movie that bombed at the box-office or a hip hop review.  Rabin has expanded his critical eye to include country music (Nashville or Bust!) and pop ephemera (THEN! That’s What They Called Music). Movie flops, the NOW That’s What I Call Music! compilations, … Continue reading Critic’s Notebook: Unpopular Causes, Part IV

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Critic’s Notebook: Unpopular Causes, Part III

Reappropriation: Camp, Kitsch, and Sincerity “When something is just bad (rather than Camp), it’s often because it is too mediocre in its ambition.  The artist hasn’t attempted to do anything outlandish.” – “Notes on Camp” [1965], Susan Sontag “Need more clarification? To his fans Liberace was the epitome of cultured taste, but of course we know he was kitsch. However, unlike the not-quite-weird-enough musical stylings of ABBA, say, or the Village People, Liberace-style kitsch is so weird, so outré, that hipsters find it impossible to appropriate as cheese. Liberace didn’t make his work inappropriable on purpose; others, however, have. The … Continue reading Critic’s Notebook: Unpopular Causes, Part III

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Critic’s Notebook: Unpopular Causes, Part II

Unpopularity as Popularity: or How to be a hipster. “Every aspect of hipster culture amounts to little more than an elaborate pissing contest.  …  Hipsters ignore rules because they think it will make them look like they don’t care. There is no end result, just a continuous cycle of mediocre indie rock and scruffy looking dudes. By basing their actions on avoiding the mainstream, they are in fact guided by the mainstream.” – “Cracked Topics: Hipster”, Cracked.com You’re not cool enough.  The bands you like aren’t unpopular enough. Hipsters, the annoying quasi-subculture, has its own uses and abuses of unpopularity. … Continue reading Critic’s Notebook: Unpopular Causes, Part II

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Critic’s Notebook: Unpopular Causes, Part I

“In place of a hermeneutrics we need an erotics of art.” – “Against Interpretation” [1964], Susan Sontag Challenges and Non-Responses The job of the critic is, by turns, tastemaker, evangelist, and champion.  The best critics harness the powers of intellection and enthusiasm to inform his or her readership on a work’s merits.  If a work receives more merits than demerits, than, in a roughly mathematical fashion, the creator obtains a “good review.”  This reviewer finds works with “mixed reviews” or polarizing reactions (see Jonathan Littell’s The Kindly Ones) most attractive, since “mixed reviews” are not sure things.  A tiny element … Continue reading Critic’s Notebook: Unpopular Causes, Part I

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