Mon 19 Jun, 2006 05:17 pm
A contributor who I will not mention by name recently made the statement that Hemingway is no longer taught at colleges and unis (I like the Brit was of saying university).
So, I simply googled, "Hemingway in college classes," and received thousands of class reading lists for colleges ranging from Carleton and Swarthmore to obscure Christian schools. All had Hemingway on their reading lists.
The person making this charge is not a member of the academic community and doesn't demonstrate a great deal of sophistication or erudition.
So, what does it matter whether Hemingway is taught or not?
I recently acquired some old copies of compilations of author interviews from the venerable Paris Review which brought home how different mid-20th C intellectualism is from today.
Now, I'm not certain where this is going or where it should go.
I have some ambivalence about The Canon but none about literary standards.
Let's just share.
It's not certain in some quarters just how "intellectual" Hemingway's writings might be. Possibly, that's debatable. However, re the following:
[quote]I recently acquired some old copies of compilations of author interviews from the venerable Paris Review which brought home how different mid-20th C intellectualism is from today. [/quote]
In "other quarters," the dumbing down of America has been loudly mourned. Even a number of highly educated individuals seem to have adopted poor grammar and delivery of the English language. One explanation is that these folk wish to be seen as in touch with those who have less formal education and, thus, not above them. The nth degree of democracy? We're all equal?
And, yes, this is true of Universities where we here have spent many years. But let me hasten to add, although some courses may have been watered down and the grading "reflective," the larger percentage are as "tough as ever."
The answer, perhaps sadly, is the real world. Comes the reckoning, the survival of the fittest. (Or, the luckiest?)[/color]
Charli -- I have never been a big Hemingway fan and, as a young woman, found him unreadable. I was largely responding to a critic here who claims that since AMerican colleges are not teaching "The Canon" according to Harold Bloom, they are going to hell in a handbasket.
I think in a different way.
In fact, I have been teaching English Language LEarners. The classroom is generally used by a special needs teacher and I offer a section of ELL while he has his prep period.
When I replaced the last copy of a dual (Shakespeare on the left/modern English on the right) edition of Romeo and Juliet that I used for my kids, I noticed Great Expectations there.
Why teach Dickens to kids who read below grade level? Why not offer them something simpler but still valid in terms of message given and values presented?
I was an English major (B.A./M.A) back in the day. My recollection of what all freshmen were required to read includes Homer, Dante, Swift..., i.e., the Dead White Male canon toward which our mutual friend would nod in approval. Modern Lit was Joyce, Dostoevsky, Proust...
Then I declared my major and read more male writers (for the most part). I know that the curriculum is far more inclusive these days, to the chagrin, no doubt, of some readers...
However, i'd warrant that the dead white male (and female) authors have not complained . . .
There are a couple of issues that I would like to raise.
Actually, three, but, then, no one expects the Spanish Inquisition.
1.) Many years ago, probably while I still lived in Detroit, I read a Sunday book section article that claimed that many established authors do not write their own books and that the task of writing is carried out by graduate students who are paid a stipend for the work and their silence. According to this article, an American Nobel PRize for Lit winner did not write any books beyond the initial few, which is why that un-named author's books were so different later on.
If I read it in the Free Press, it had to have been prior to 1976. Was the writer under discussion Steinbeck or Buck? There weren't many American Nobel laureates for lit in those days.
This sort of thing -- which does smack of urban legend -- drives home the point that American publishing is first and foremost business, but, it also shows how spurious the notion of canonization is. If a big time author's books can be ghost-written . . . .
2.) A lot later in time, a book critic -- this time I know it had to have been in the Boston Globe -- wrote about how healthy American publishing remains. Looking over the list of books published that year, he (? don't remember who it was: this is the Biblical he) said most were well written, as are most American books. While his list included both fiction and non-fiction, it is true that most are well written. Just how many have a spark of divine fire is another story.
Besides, a book can be well written in terms of story flow or plot but not contain much depth or art.
3.) Andy Warhol once pointed out that the great old masters painted bowls of fruit while he paints cans of soup. In other words, the artistic output matched the society it was produced for. Dutch masters feature white washed interiors with sumptious oriental carpets draped on tables and brass pitchers. Painted today, we would consider such works "retro" or just plain odd.
If we transfer that notion to books, maybe there is justification for dropping an old warhorse from the curriculum in favor of a fresh new writer whose work is -- to borrow that popular phrase from the 60s -- more relevant.
I read Victor Hugo for the first time in 2001 and loved him. When I decided to become a serious student of literature, I was too intellectually insecure to take the Foundations of the Novel course. However, in my late 30s, I began reading all those English men -- and they were English and largely male -- who created the novel at about the same time America became an independent country. I enjoyed them.
But, I read them as an adult, with an adult's taste, experience and understanding. Let's face it, we put trainer wheels on kids' bikes, why not have trainer wheel novels.
OK, now, let's take another tack. There are pieces of music that might be classified as folk or rock that are more well constructed than certain classical pieces. Just because something is old does not mean it can not be bested by something new.
I presented Zadie Smith's wonderful novel, "White Teeth," to my book group. It has depth and complexity. There are so many conscious literary devices within the novel, most prominent among them is the use of twins or the doubling of characters. Zadie SMith may develop into one of the leading novelists of the 21st C . . . if we survive global warming and global warfare.
From a "Ghostwriting Firm" . . .
Ghostwriting is a whole 'nuther thing - "can of worms"? The following is an excerpt from a web site of folks who charge between $25,000 and $40,000 for "helping" with a book. Lots of stuff there. This is only a smidgin of their info. It's worth a look - just for the fun of it!
[quote] . . .
Does the client write anything (besides the checks)? Only if he or she wants to. Very often, the person whose name appears on the cover of the ghostwritten book does no writing whatsoever. In the case of many celebrities, the celebs do nothing more than lend their name to the project. Do you really think former American Idol star Clay Aiken, who by his own admission has always loathed writing, actually penned his bestselling autobiography, Learning To Sing? Of course not; it was written by accomplished author Allison Glock, and Clay just lent his name, his story, and his smiling face to the work. (It helped that Ms. Glock is a Southerner herself, which brought a note of authenticity to the warm, down-home narrative.)
. . .
Who gets the credit for a ghostwritten book? That depends. For the majority of the ghosting projects we have done, the author's name alone appears on the cover, and we are credited on the title page, copyright page, and/or the acknowledgments. Such is the case with many ghostwritten books on the market. As you probably know, that's where the term "ghostwriter" came from in the first place; ghostwriters work behind the scenes, invisibly.
. . .
IMHO there are a number of "incredibly prolific" writers who give one pause at the size of their output and the depth of their research. Shall we name a few? "Pick one."
Charli -- What the article about Nobel Prize winning writers had to say was not ghostwriting in the "as told to" sense. The implication was that this was an effort to keep the name of the writer before the public.
Now, I read Pearl Buck's The Good Earth as a high school student and found it a wonderful book. I tried to read another of her books -- something about the atomic bomb, I suspect, with an Air Force General as the chief chacater -- and found it tripe.
I have wondered about Steinbeck's "Travels with Charlie in Search of America" which many critics at the time thought was a real switch from his foundation writings. I had read his novellas and then Travels and did not see such a great divide.
Anyone interested in a fairly recent and somewhat more balanced appraisal of Harold Bloom might go to:
Charli -- Able2Know is not behaving today. I have tried to access it through two different servers and am having a terrible time.
Just try googling Harry Bloom and see what you get. However, I really find the internet inadequate for finding everything I want to know. Sigh!