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Preview: The Reading Experience

The Reading Experience

By Daniel Green

Published: 2014-11-27T14:17:53-06:00




New address for The Reading Experience:

Behold the Man


The most important argument James Shapiro makes in his book Contested Will is not that the author of Shakespeare's plays and poems is William Shakespeare (the "Stratford man")--anyone who honestly examines both the evidence for Shakespeare's authorship and the evidence...

The Horizon of the Sentence


(Continued from previous post) If in essays such as "Disappearance of the Word, Appearance of the World" and "The Political Economy of Poetry" (The New Sentence, 1987) Ron Silliman contends that New Criticism (presumably Silliman wants New Criticism to stand...

Articulating a Poetics


Ron Silliman begins The New Sentence (1987) with this unimpeachable claim: . . .if we look to that part of the world which is the poem, tracing the historical record of each critical attempt to articulate a poetics, a discursive...

Forget Fiction


Lee Siegel recently opined that "fiction has now become a museum-piece genre most of whose practitioners are more like cripplingly self-conscious curators or theoreticians than writers. For better or for worse, the greatest storytellers of our time are the nonfiction...



In his part history of Bulgarian literature/part survey of the career of contemporary Bulgarian writer Georgi Gospodinov, Dimiter Kenarov remarks that to appreciate Gospopdinov "one does not have to be Bulgarian, or to know the name of the Bulgarian president"...

Time's Arrow


If it is at all possible to call a novel a "poet's novel," Off We Go Into the Wild Blue Yonder (Coffee House Press) would seem literally to be one. Its author, Travis Nichols, is currently an editor at the...



I think it is fair to say that, although particular books of his might receive a few less-than-effusive endorsements, Richard Russo is a highly regarded novelist among mainstream American book reviewers. Although Empire Falls seems to be the work that...

Collective Individuality


The most problematic chapter of Art as Experience, in my opinion, is the last, Ch. 13, "Art and Civilization." It is an attempt to delineate the role of art and the aesthetic beyond the experience of the individual, its influence...

Perfecting the Power to Perceive


John Dewey's conception of the role of criticism is quite straightforward and follows naturally from his conception of art: The function of criticism is the reeducation of perception of works of art; it is an auxiliary in the process, a...

Pure Experience


John Dewey perhaps articulates his notion of "art as experience" most straightforwardly near the beginning of the chapter devoted to art's "challenge to philosophy" (ch. XII): . . .esthetic experience is experience in its integrity. Had not the term "pure"...

Mysterious Potencies


A more familiar, if not necessarily more precise, term for the faculty involved in the act of artistic creation John Dewey identifies as "intuition" is "imagination," the latter of which Dewey discusses immediately after introducing the former in Chapter XI...

Experience of the Traditions


By and large, John Dewey's pragmatic philosophy did not really have much room for a preoccupation with history. Dewey most emphasized the possibility of "growth," the forward-looking realization of potential, whether in education, politics, or art. History might hold some...

The New Equivocation


Readers familiar with Rebecca Goldstein's previous fiction would no doubt find that 36 Arguments for the Existence of God has much in common with the earlier work. It concerns itself with the intellectual nexus formed by science-mathematics-philosophy, is set in...

News of the Poetry World


The Poetry Foundation's Harriet blog recently announced it is abandoning the "discussion model" to provide instead "a daily news feed with links and excerpts from other outlets around the world." This means that the site will no longer feature blog...

Outside the Realm of Poetry


David Biespiel is convinced that "America’s poets are uniquely qualified to speak openly in the public square among diverse or divisive communities," despite their current "intractable and often disdainful disinterest in participating in the public political arena outside the realm...

Readers in the English-Speaking World


Among the many unsupportable assertions made by Stephen Marche in his semi-infamous 2008 diatribe against Alain Robbe-Grillet was the following: The "new novel". . . as Robbe-Grillet defined and explained it in his famous 1963 essay, was high art at...

Confusion and Turbulence


In an essay defending historical fiction, Allan Massie concludes that There are essentially two sorts of novel, the open and the closed, even if many straddle the frontier that divides them. The closed novel is self-sufficient, free of the influence...

Detecting a Wrongness


In his review of Jonathan Lethem's Chronic City, Hari Kunzru maintains that what separates this novel from the postmodern novels Lethem clearly admires is that "it’s too good-humored to attain real satiric bite and is often content to drop a...

Seeking Out Experts


In a recent Howard Kurtz column in the Washington Post about the disappearance of newspaper critics, Terry Teachout is quoted as maintaining that "there will always be a place for literate, well-informed drama criticism about performances taking place in Chicago...

Explain Yourself


Perhaps the most debilitating limitation of the book review, at least as practiced in American newspapers and most magazines, is that too often critical judgment is pronounced in the absence of articulated standards. Underlying assumptions about what makes for a...

Turning Pages


Sven Birkerts has been developing a critique of "electronic media" for quite a long time, publishing The Gutenberg Elegies in 1994, well before the rise of blogs, stand-alone news sites, and critical webzines, so his cyber skepticism is not to...



Readers of Morris Dickstein's newest book, Dancing in the Dark: A Cultural History of the Great Depression, should find it an agreeable survey of the cultural expressions of the 1930s that reveals how the Depression years were portrayed and understood...



Jonathan Mayhew affirms the notion that poetry aspires to the condition of music, arguing specifically that "poetry is closer to music than it is to 'literature' as conventionally defined." Since Walter Pater's original assertion was that all art aspires to...



D.G. Myers is pretty sure that plot in fiction displays "how the greatest novelists think." I surely can't agree either that plot is always relevant to how the "greatest novelists" think, nor that it necesssarily has anything to do with...



John Dewey's notion of "experience" in Art and Experience cannot be equated with what some aestheticians, following Kant, refer to as "contemplation": To define the emotional element of the process of perception merely as the pleasure taken in the action...

A Sad Decline


Lorrie Moore's first two books, the story collection Self-Help (1985) and the novel Anagrams (1986), introduced a writer possessing an appealing comic touch, lightly applied but not reducible to mere "humor," and a modest if still palpable impulse to formal...

Only Change and No Urns?


While reflecting on the role of "innovation" in poetry, Ron Silliman pauses to offer this comment: I have written before that any history of poetry is inevitably a history of change in poetry, and that an inevitable consequence is that...

Going Truly Global


In her recent consideration of Dalkey Archive's anthology, Best European Fiction 2010, Ruth Franklin wonders: Other than the language in which they write, is there anything that unites [writers such as Ha Jin, Jhumpa Lahiri, Edwidge Danticat, and Nathan Englander]—all...

Sorrentino Review


My review for The Quarterly Conversation of Gilbert Sorrentino's posthumously published The Abyss of Human Illusion is now available in the new issue, number 19. As usual, lots of other good stuff there too.

What's Going On?


It is not really surprising that crime fiction would be a genre appealing to otherwise "serious" novelists attempting to work with the conventions of a popular form adapted to the purposes of their own ostensibly non-genre work. Crime fiction portrays...



On February 7, Mark Athitakis published both a review of Don DeLillo's Point Omega and a blog post supplementing that review. The review (printed in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune) is a perfectly good review of its kind--the kind limited by the...

The Event of Truth


It is often enough asserted that aesthetic values are "really" ethical ones, or that the aesthetic is "always already" political, or that aesthetic taste and judgment are necessarily secondary to some other consideration in a move that essentially amounts to...

Rabbit's Run


Although I have read Rabbit, Run at least four times, I have read the other Rabbit books by John Updike only once. While I thought Rabbit is Rich was worth reading, the other two were tepid and lackluster, period pieces...

Secondary Sources


I have posted to Secondary Sources a bibliography of interviews with contemporary writers available online. This list complements the previous list of online critical essays already posted to this "scholarly" sideblog. I have concentrated on substantial interviews that were conducted...



Adam Kirsch means this to be a criticism of J.D. Salinger: The obsessive inventory of the family's apartment in "Franny and Zooey"—there are page-long lists, one of which includes "three radios (a 1927 Freshman, a 1932 Stromberg-Carlson, and a 1941...

Rescuing Public Discourse


In a recent essay in Mother Jones, Ted Genoways blames the decline--both in numbers and in influence--of university-affiliated literary magazines not on the university administrators who are, as Genoways puts it, "off-loading" such magazines, nor or the editorial practices by...

"I Wouldn't Explain"


A debut work that is explicitly identified as experimental--or in this case "unique and innovative," as the book's back cover has it--seems a useful opportunity to consider what "experimental" appears to signify to young writers aspiring to produce fiction worthy...

Out of the Ashes


As part of Critical Distance, the online journal I started up in May 2009 but which I have since discontinued due to lack of interest, I compiled a bibliography of critical essays on a selected number of contemporary American writers...

Performing Its Own Self


Raymond Federman was generally associated with those American writers who in the 1960s and 70s began writing what is now called "metafiction," but there was always something about Federman's work that seemed different, its self-reflexivity even more radical and enacted...

The Object in Esthetic Experience


There has been much debate about whether the aesthetic qualities of a work of art--in some formulations, its "beauty"--can be considered intrinsic to the work or whether these are qualities imputed to the work according to our own individual, subjective...



A little before Christmas, the film critic and scholar Robin Wood died. When I was a graduate student, I pursued film study as a secondary field of interest--I do have a few scholarly essays on film to my credit--and Robin...



It seems to me that almost all of the reviewers who found fault with Jonathan Littell's The Kindly Ones--some of them quite harshly--failed to take sufficiently into account the effects and implications of its origin in the first-person narration of...

Doing Something as a Reality


In his book on the work of Ronald Sukenick and Raymond Federman (The Novel as Performance (1986)), Jerzy Kutnik comments: The rise of Action Painting, the Happening, The Living Theatre, John Cage's experimental music and Charles Olson's "projective verse," to...

My Reading Year


Top five novels about flyfishing: Rainbow Trout, Run--An intensely wrought account of a fisherman who finds the old methods of flyfishing too confining and flails out at those who would prevent him from devising new strategies. The character of "Racoon"...

Signature Elements


In an essay on Flannery O'Connor for Religion & Ethics Newsweekly, David E. Anderson writes: Revisiting O’Connor after five decades, it still remains difficult to find that Catholic sensibility she and many of her admiring critics insist permeates her work,...

The Didactic Embodiment of the Physical Book


Although I agree with Alan Kaufman that for longer works the paper-based book remains a perfectly adequate purveyor of text--I don't own a Kindle and still can see no reason why I should, given my habits as a reader--and that...

Dashed to the Ground


Among those American writers who were originally identified as "minimalists," a group that would include Raymond Carver, Bobbie Ann Mason, Ann Beattie, and Tobias Wolff, Mary Robison may have been the most minimalist of them all--or, to use the word...

Some Other Kind of Structure


According to the Financial Times, a study published in Psychological Science concludes that an encounter with surrealistic art "enhances the cognitive mechanisms that oversee implicit learning functions." The idea is that when you’re exposed to a meaning threat - something...



A post at OnFiction speculates on a phenomenon in which "readers sometimes struggle against or try to mitigate the effects of reading the fictions in which they are engaged." Some readers say that they slow their reading before coming to...