Myths About Literature

images.jpgI recently read a piece in the New York Times Book Section  that had me shaking my head. The subject of Bookends was “Is the Writer’s Only Responsibility to His Art?” The direction of this inquiry seemed obviously focused on the artist’s approach to his or her art (in this case literature) but the responses to the question clearly  misinterpreted it to refer to the other responsibilities the artist might have, to his kids or to some moral code imposed by society or religion.

The quotation is from that drunken rascal William Faulkner (watch the film Barton Fink for a fun fictional representation of a Faulkner close).

Perhaps here is an opportunity to recall Parker’s Myths of Literature:

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Just How White Our Reading World Is

This popped up in the Washington Post:

I read books by only minority authors for a year. It showed me just how white our reading world is

White authors reign in book reviews, bestseller lists, literary awards and Amazon.com recommendations.

HamletIt’s an old story that I have been pointing out for many years but Sunili Govinnage gives a much more specific representation of what is known in some circles as the Dead White-Man Syndrome and in others as the Western Canon. One thing Govinnage does which I seldom do (being 85% literature snob) is read and cite some of the less literary and more popular fiction of the countries involved. I’m thinking that reading some good crime novels from, say, Indonesia, might be educational as well as entertaining. I know there have been several mystery or crime novelists from outside the United States who have been popular recently but they’re from Sweden or the Netherlands, or even Iceland … but they’re still a part of the world that reveres the Western Canon.

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