Wood e o romance moderno

31 01 2008

Mais James Wood. Trechos de uma entrevista onde ele critica o romance moderno. Pessoalmente, acho que muito do que ele fala se aplica ao romance moderno brasileiro.

What I’m most interested in, as a critic, is what we might nebulously call human truth a true account of the world as we experience it, and of the full difficulty of being in that world. Creating living characters, and writing fiction expressing what Henry James called “the present palpable intimate,” entails, for me at least, some kind of morality. Requiring readers to put themselves into the minds of many different kinds of other people is a moral action on the part of the author. So when I feel that reality is being exaggerated or made cartoonish which is what I mean by hysterical realism seems to me that one crucial issue at stake is morality.


It might sound strange, since I criticize writers like Don DeLillo so fiercely, but I do like novels set clearly in the present age, novels full of palpabilities. I think that’s what the novel can still do better than any other medium journalism doesn’t provide me with news about the current state of the soul. Part of my anxiety and unease about novels by Foster Wallace, Franzen, and others is that they have swallowed a great deal of journalism, sociology, and cultural studies, which means they are no longer doing something that’s not replaceable that another medium can’t do as well or better.


If an earlier generation of writers Pynchon and DeLillo, for example took too many drugs, the current crop may have taken too many critical theory seminars. Instead of resisting virulent new forms of inauthenticity, they often settle for satirizing the culture always an easy thing to do. But a novel that doesn’t practice resistance isn’t earning its keep.

realismo e personagens

30 01 2008

 Mais sobre realismo em ficção. Desta vez, James Wood fala sobre realismo na caracterização de personagens.

To argue that we can know Jean Brodie just as deeply as we can know George Eliot’s Dorothea Brooke in Middlemarch, to argue that lacunae are as deep as solidities, that absence in characterisation can be a form of knowing as profound as presence, that Spark’s and Saramago’s and Nabokov’s characters can move us as much as James’s and Eliot’s, is to concede nothing to Gass’s scepticism. Not all of these characters have the same amount of realised “depth”, but all of them are objects of perception, to use Gass’s words, and things that can be correctly said of persons can also be said of them. They are all “real”, but in different ways. That reality level differs from author to author, and our hunger for the particular depth or reality level of a character is tutored by each writer, and adapts to the internal conventions of each book. This is how we can read WG Sebald one day and Virginia Woolf or Philip Roth the next, and not demand that each resemble the other. It would be an obvious category error to accuse Sebald of not offering us “deep” or “rounded” characters. I think that novels tend to fail not when the characters are not vivid or “deep” enough, but when the novel in question has failed to teach us how to adapt to its conventions, has failed to manage a specific hunger for its own characters, its own reality level. In such cases, our appetite is quickly disappointed, and surges wildly in excess of what we are provided, and we tend to blame the author, unfairly, for not giving us enough – the characters, we complain, are not alive or round or free enough.

realismo em ficção

29 01 2008

Uma explicação sobre o que é realismo em ficção. E porque não é o que a maioria pensa. Apareceu nessa resenha do livro “How fiction Works” de James Wood, ainda a ser lançado.

Wood cites American novelist Rick Moody, who says the realistic novel needs “a kick in the ass”, as “it’s politically and philosophically dubious and often dull”. This, argues Wood, is nonsense, and based on a misunderstanding of what realism actually is and what the novel’s relationship to it is. While novels may appear realistic, they are still novels – artifices, whose reality is that which the novelist chooses to present to us.

Great novelists, says Wood, such as Flaubert or Henry James or Saul Bellow, offer their readers a world in which “reality” is not a mirror of the “real” world but of their manufacture. Bad writers do not appreciate this, for “they assume that the world can be described”.

“In America,” Wood adds, “the battle lines are more fiercely drawn up than in Europe because of the tendency on the realist side to be somewhat anti-intellectual and masculinist – that whole sort of post-Hemingway line. A writer I admire, like Richard Ford, say, would probably be thought of by people like writer and academic David Foster Wallace as prehistoric, unintellectual. I don’t think that’s fair. But there has been a tendency in American writing schools to enforce a slightly unthinking realism.

keep your opinion to yourself

28 01 2008

Many young people now end a discussion with the supposedly definitive and unanswerable statement that such is their opinion, and their opinion is just as valid as anyone else’s. The fact is that our opinion on an infinitely large number of questions is not worth having, because everyone is infinitely ignorant. My opinion of the parasitic diseases of polar bears is not worth having for the simple reason that I know nothing about them, though I have a right to an opinion in the sense that I should not receive a knock on the door from the secret police if I express such a worthless opinion. The right to an opinion is often confused (no doubt for reasons of misplaced democratic sentiment) for the validity of an opinion, just as the validity of an argument is often mistaken for the truth of a conclusion.
(Theodore Dalrymple)

two cases of dominionism

21 01 2008

Two examples of dominionist influence on American life.

Around 1997, the ex-gay movement started to get funding from Focus on the Family [a huge Christian Right group led by James Dobson and based in Colorado Springs, Colo.] and from what I’ll call other fundamentalist Christian organizations. Exodus International began receiving a lot of their funding from these organizations. As a result, [the ex-gay groups] began to tell a different story. Ex-gays became a vital part of the battle against gay and lesbian civil rights in society.


When you have a keynote speaker like Michael Brown, to me that’s unacceptable. It’s preaching a message of Christians not just simply opposing gay civil rights and believing a spiritual revival is necessary for this country, but actually calling on Christians to lay down their lives in a spiritual revolution to set up civil laws based on one extreme interpretation of biblical laws from the Old Testament [that calls for the death penalty for homosexuals]. It’s Christian Reconstructionism [a doctrine that calls for imposing harsh Old Testament laws on civil society], Christian dominionism. It’s abhorrent, and it’s dangerous, not just for LGBT people but for our entire society. Because if civil laws are based on [Brown]’s interpretation of the Bible, it’s not going to be a democratic society.

(Coming Out: Former ‘Ex-Gay’ Minister Speaks Out)

The most effective Dominionist organisations are those under the aegis of the Campus Crusade for Christ, including, Weinstein says, a group called the Officers Christian Fellowship, and for the enlisted folks, the Christian Military Fellowship. These groups have a goal they believe is much more important than the oath they all swore: to protect, defend, support and serve the constitution of the United States. It’s a tripartite goal and they are unabashed and unapologetic about it. It’s right on their web site. Goal number one: they want to see a spiritually transformed US military. Goal number two: with ambassadors for Christ in uniform. Let me say that one again, and think back over history. That hasn’t worked out too well in the last 2,000 years. Ambassadors for Christ in uniform. At least they didn’t have nuclear weapons and laser-guided weapons before. Third, empowered by the Holy Spirit. They work assiduously up and down the chain of command, using, in fact, the draconian spectre of command influence to push this weaponised Gospel of Jesus Christ. It’s very digital, one and zero. Either you accept our view, or either we or our version of Jesus will have to kill you, and our version of Jesus will light you up on fire for Eternity, so you’re really gonna be dead.

(Backward Christian soldier: Evangelicals are taking over the US military)

raízes da intolerância

20 01 2008

Few Christians ever realise that their freedom to discuss their own religion was, in effect, destroyed by a Roman emperor.

The history of Europe would have been very different if Themistius’s formula that God enjoys being worshipped in a diversity of ways had passed into the western tradition after the fall of the empire. The year AD 381 thus deserves to be seen as one of the defining moments in the history of European thought, and the history of Christianity should be rewritten to acknowledge it.

Artigo sobre o assunto.

pra que estudar humanidades?

9 01 2008

O melhor desta discussão sobre a utilidade do ensino das ciências humanas vem depois, nas reações ao texto. Os comentários – numerosos – mostram pontos de vista interessantíssimos a respeito do assunto e são escritos por gente que ensina na área de humanas.

Mas critico este comentário do autor:

Teachers of literature and philosophy are competent in a subject, not in a ministry. It is not the business of the humanities to save us, no more than it is their business to bring revenue to a state or a university. What then do they do? They don’t do anything, if by “do” is meant bring about effects in the world. And if they don’t bring about effects in the world they cannot be justified except in relation to the pleasure they give to those who enjoy them.

Ele diz que o ensino de literatura e filosofia não traz conseqüências ao mundo além do prazer pessoal de usufruí-los? Será que eu entendi errado? Que idéia estapafúrdia.

Muitos dos comentários também rebatem essa idéia do autor. Algumas respostas dos comentários:

“The correct response when someone condescendingly asks you about the value of the humanities is simply to say to them “If you need to ask that question, then you obviously don’t understand enough to be discussing the topic in the first place.”

“The most unique features of being human are the ability to form sound judgments in our conduct and our ability to communicate effectively. To a very large extent, study of the humanities is indispensable to the development of those abilities.

Perhaps, if some of our national leaders had done their humanities homework, our present situation would be substantially better than it is.”

“The essay is devoted to the idea that the humanities have intrinsic rather than instrumental good, but if they are valued because of the pleasure they bring to those who practice them, that is treating them as an instrumental good – a means to pleasure. It is the difference between the aesthetic approach – beauty for beauty’s sake, and the utilitarian approach – beauty for the sake of pleasure.

For myself, some of the pleasure that comes from engaging in the study and teaching of humanities comes from the thought that what I am studying and teaching is intrinsically worthwhile: if it were good as a means to my pleasure, it would not be quite so pleasant.”