Internet Histories05.08.13

Internet Histories | 5 August

This fortnight: THAT Fox interview, poetry and the provocative obituary and much-deserved congratulations to Eleanor Catton.

This fortnight:

Poetry and The Provocative Obit | That Fox interview


[caption id="attachment_7711" align="aligncenter" width="500"] Karsten Wegener, Silke Baltruschat and Raik Holst[/caption]

Karsten Wegener, Silke Baltruschat and Raik Holst

Everything is dying. The novel. The essay. Fiction itself. (The Janet Malcolms are blamed for its death, and insightful criticism proclaimed a symptom of a dying culture - "If fiction were still urgently alive, it would not allow itself to be so easily formulated, evaluated and assigned a grade").

And now: American poetry. According to Mark Edmundson, it's all "oblique, equivocal, painfully self-questioning." It's "timid, small, in retreat."

What galls me about this genre of essay ('the provocative obits') is that they're actually quite effective. Take an outrageous position, the broader the better, broadcast it to the world, pat yourself on the back for revitalising an entire culture and hail yourself a martyr. Or maybe you genuinely believe in your position, in which case it's probably not what you're writing about that's dying: it's you, your rigidity, your fear.

It's a particular brand of writer who aspires to proclaim an entire cultural practice dead (let's call the brand 'grumpy middle-aged man'). And yet, begrudgingly, there's value in it all: for the responses they elicit and the spotlight that's shone on the previously unlit. I've especially enjoyed Katy Waldman's furious response at Slate and the calmer but equally satisfying takedown by Julia Cohen.

But the real reason I'm writing about this is to recommend you all read Patricia Lockwood's poem, The Rape Joke, published last week on The Awl. It's brilliant: surprising and clever and absolutely devastating. In short, anything but dead.

[caption id="attachment_7712" align="aligncenter" width="500"] The book's even bigger[/caption]


On other forms not dead, warmest congratulations to Eleanor Catton, whose second novel The Luminaries has been long-listed for the Man Booker.

Recommended: Elizabeth Knox's launch speech from last week, David Larsen's fantastic profile of her in The Listener and for those in Wellington, today's Writers on Monday at Te Papa, where she'll be discussing her novel.

Everybody knows Fox News is a joke, except for everyone who watches Fox News. It’s the racist, sexist, conservative mouthpiece of the Angry White Man, disaffected and spiteful, a creature whose time has come – and gone – and who clings to easy, outdated precepts with a terrified death grip.

This has never been more apparent than during last week’s shameful Reza Aslan interview.

“Why would you be interested in the founder of Christianity?”

“Because it’s my job as an academic.”

Cringe. People watched this interview and called out the host, Lauren Green, as an unprepared moron. While that’s perhaps true, it does highlight one of Fox’s great weaknesses: when interviewees stray from the anticipated defensive crouch, when they go on the attack instead, they discover the great hurricane of moral outrage directed towards them actually has no substance. When they look their attackers in the face and call bullshit, there’s a fantastic show of light and sound, but no heat.

I will take this opportunity to gleefully link to John Stewart’s appearance on Crossfire. The show was cancelled shortly thereafter.

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