Gerry Canavan

the smartest kid on earth

Posts Tagged ‘what's most important about literature

Infinite Math

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Kottke highlights a nice Infinite Summer forum thread about mathematics and Infinite Jest that, in a pleasing recursive loop, eventually links back to this blog.

Also in Infinite Summer news, Ezra Klein makes everybody sad by not really liking the book. I agree with Daryl both that (1) it’s perfectly okay not to like the book and (2) your not liking the book isn’t David Foster Wallace’s fault. I often find myself reminding students that “pleasure” isn’t necessarily what’s most important about literature, or art in general; sometimes reading can and should be hard work.

Written by gerrycanavan

August 11, 2009 at 4:30 pm

Four More

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Four more. Thanks to some Facebookers for the links.

* Exact date of Odysseus’s return from Troy pinpointed. With this crucial question settled, no one need read The Odyssey ever again.

* How to write about Africa.

In your text, treat Africa as if it were one country. It is hot and dusty with rolling grasslands and huge herds of animals and tall, thin people who are starving. Or it is hot and steamy with very short people who eat primates. Don’t get bogged down with precise descriptions. Africa is big: fifty-four countries, 900 million people who are too busy starving and dying and warring and emigrating to read your book. The continent is full of deserts, jungles, highlands, savannahs and many other things, but your reader doesn’t care about all that, so keep your descriptions romantic and evocative and unparticular.

Make sure you show how Africans have music and rhythm deep in their souls, and eat things no other humans eat. Do not mention rice and beef and wheat; monkey-brain is an African’s cuisine of choice, along with goat, snake, worms and grubs and all manner of game meat. Make sure you show that you are able to eat such food without flinching, and describe how you learn to enjoy it — because you care.

Taboo subjects: ordinary domestic scenes, love between Africans (unless a death is involved), references to African writers or intellectuals, mention of school-going children who are not suffering from yaws or Ebola fever or female genital mutilation.

* Congratulations to Morgan Ross, winner of the Harper’s Ferry “Worst Love Poem” contest.

Your legs
undulate like two jellyfish tentacles,
moving freely in the ocean
that is your upper lip.

* A slave in Jefferson Davis’s house was a Union spy. Great story. Dibs on the movie rights to this.

Written by gerrycanavan

February 21, 2009 at 5:49 pm