paper trail

Oct 18, 2010 @ 9:00:00 am

Raymond Carver

If some sociologists regard intellectuals (you know, writers, ticket-takers at the roller-derby, etc.) as a sui generis group that transcends the otherwise surly bonds of class, Gerry Howard would disagree. In his essay in the current issue of Tin House, he reminds us how working-class scribes—Raymond Carver, Ken Kesey, Dorothy Allison—mined their blue-collar backgrounds to piercing, instructive effect, even as sophisticated critics, say, in Carver’s case, celebrated his fiction for begin deliciously “squalid.” Howard expands his case to address the current literary scene: “Working-class people who pay the punishing financial price that going to college extracts these days are unlikely to be attracted to publishing. . . . which means that voices from and on behalf of the working class have that much harder a time getting read, understood, and published."

Tonight at the 92nd Street Y, V. S. Naipaul will discuss his new book, The Masque of Africa. Writing in the latest Bookforum, Thomas Meaney notes: "Naipaul may be the last writer to believe in the author's ability to capture objective truth if he concentrates hard enough. This faith opposes every strain of contemporary thinking and yet, when fanatically applied, produces the impression that Naipaul misses nothing."

Why is there so little sex in current British literature? Perhaps the Literary Review's Bad Sex in Fiction award has scared authors off the sultry subject. Recently, the Review amended the rules to allow non-fiction into the contest, with Tony Blair's new memoir, A Journey, joining Martin Amis, Jonathan Franzen, and Ian McEwan on this year's shortlist for egregiously bad erotic prose.

In The Guardian, an exasperated Germaine Greer points out some small factual inaccuracies in Booker prize nominated novels, and is especially vexed by Tom McCarthy's C, writing, "If abstruseness is your subject—and it's hard to find any other for C—you have to get it right. . . . If a fact-checker had come to his aid, C might have won the Booker after all."