Sunday, January 2, 2011

Today's New York Times Book Review takes criticism as its theme ("Why Criticism Matters"). Though I have yet to look at all its contents, I did notice an excerpt from Mary McCarthy's June 4, 1962 New Republic review of Nabakov's Pale Fire (1962), a book that was definitely on my mind when writing American Whiskey Bar (1997).

Here is what Mary McCarthy said of Pale Fire:

"When the separate parts are assembled, according to the manufacturer's directions, and fitted together with the help of clues and cross-references, which must be hunted down as in a paper chase, a novel on several levels is revealed, and these 'levels' are not the customary 'levels of meaning' of modern criticism but planes in a fictive space, rather like those houses of memory in medieval mnemonic science, where words facts and numbers were stored till wanted in various rooms and attics, or like the House of astrology into which the heavens are divided."

So a favorable review, as they say, but one still reliant on metaphor, a device that a later modernism (more open to conflict than function) still struggles to live without.

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