Zadie Smith on E.M. Forster, Toni Morrison, Pierre & Rhodes on tour

Zadie Smith defends E.M. Forster’s fiction, in the Guardian:

EM Forster’s A Room With A View was my first intimation of the possibilities of fiction: how wholly one might feel for it and through it, how much it could do to you. I felt it was very good and that the reading of it had done me some good. I loved it. I was too young, at 11, to realise serious people don’t speak of novels this way. Soon enough, though, I grew up and grew serious; I became intellectually responsive to the text….

There is something about love that does not sit well with the literary academy. We are aware that there is an emotive response for which the novel explicitly applies that is not properly requested by an atom or a rock formation or a chemical compound. Sensing the anomalous nature of this emotive quality within the university, we have resolved not to speak of it much. We recall the strategies by which FR Leavis secured the novel’s status within the academy, treating the novel with circumspection; as if it were not quite a novel, but rather a piece of social history, or an example of moral philosophy, or a mission statement, or a piece of public policy. It did not matter, really, as long as the novel was seen to be treated rigorously and made relevant. Like Leavis, we are not quite sure that the novel as novel will do….

Toni Morrison’s Love gets the Miller treatment, which in this case means: a good deal of plot summary designed to make the novel sound tedious, some lukewarm remarks about the writer’s preoccupations, a bizarre reference to J.Lo and P. Diddy, a touch of bland praise, and a mixed conclusion. Miller operates around this thesis:

Having become the first African-American and only the eighth woman to win the Nobel Prize in Literature, Toni Morrison is expected to speak appropriately on behalf of two aggrieved groups, and too often, alas, she does. Her fiction has tilted at times toward the grand and the instructional, and once the Swedish Academy bestowed its laurels, the response to her books broke down into two categories: prostrate worship and gleeful nose-thumbing.

To the right of the review is a link to an audio file of Morrison reading from the new novel.

I mentioned last week that DBC Pierre (Vernon God Little) and Dan Rhodes (Timoleon Vieta Come Home) are on a reading tour together. Yesterday The Austin Chronicle ran a brief profile of the two authors. In it, Pierre says he admired Rhodes’ “fiction before meeting him earlier this year and recognizes in it that ‘wistful thing around it, that beautiful sense of sweet pain.” Rhodes says he is “‘busy basking in Pierre’s reflected glory at the moment,'” and “deadpans that ‘come the end of the tour, we’ll probably be demanding different seats on different planes.'” (Via Bookslut.)


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