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First, let me say that I am not concerned at all with awards.

I am addressing his idea that American Lit. is too insular, which I reject. I find it also doubly troubling coming from someone who basically lauds writing with an ethnic, nationalistic or regional tinge.

For instance, think how topical and national recent winners such as Pamuk have been. Such value judgements as Engdahl's are weird precisely because the works chosen not transcend the national.

Nor should they. I want to read difference in literature, difference in culture, difference in nation. I don't care how parochial literature can be. There's as much depth in the story of an obscure Amazon tribe as there is in any supranational or globalist statement about humanity.

That being said, I'm back to the insular charge again. This insular charge is also packed with an accusation about pop culture. From reading Engdahl's comments, it becomes clear to me that he subscribes to this divide between low culture and high culture. By doing that he insists on the increasing rarification of literature which inevitably marginalizes it. Someone like Pynchon, for instance, sees culture as "a whole way of life" and not as the highest transcendent ideals of Western Civilization. That's why he's eminently capable of seeing pop culture and all its loaded symbolism as a powerful actor in culture. only someone who delves into the culture can critique it.

Pynchon does this perhaps better than any other living author.

And he has been recognized by many Europeans as being hugely influential in this sort of novel. Michel Hoellebecq, for instance, owes a debt to him.

Quite frankly, Engdahl's arguments just seem like ignorance to me.

by Upstate NY on Fri Oct 3rd, 2008 at 01:36:59 PM EST
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