Archive for August, 2007

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August 27, 2007 at 3:17 pm Leave a comment

The Yiddish Policemen’s Union, Experience and America, What the fuck is this god damn literature thing?, and why fucking walruses is wrong… in this context.


I once had an English teacher who made the mysterious claim that was no such thing as American literature. At the time it didn’t make sense to me, after all Faulkner, Twain, Pynchon, etc were all literature, right? But the more I think about it, the more I’m not so sure. At the moment I’m going through Blanchot’s The Most High (Les Tres Haute), and getting a good amount out of it, but Americans have always been antithetical to the idea of hitting you over the head with meaning, and American Author Michael Chabon’s greatest gift might be the ability to craft the rollercoasters of pop entertainment into forms that at time remind of high cultural theory as if the batman ride at sixflags were to suddenly remind you a passage from Sophocles or something, and that is fitting with the idea of experience of over meaning that Susan Sontag proposed awhile back and perhaps codified a peculairly American stance to the humanities, that it’s better to feel than to think, a thought later argued by Malcom Gladwell in his books. But getting back to my teacher, literature might very well be the form of a book, but a book that’s meaning is so pervasive and it’s experience so strong, that it beats the form of an essay, a logical arguement, it gives us a world that in turn our imagination fills, and in the end the author has managed to emerssed us in a fictional world that will consistently confront us with the points his book is about, art can be a better vechile for expression than say an op-ed in The New York Times if we manage to fall for the author’s hook.

I am trading in The Yiddish Policeman’s Union as Dasa books on Sukuhmvit when the owner asks me how was it, it was great I reply, but it didn’t mean anything. I finished the book with a sense of the imagination that Chabon implies, but not with my views particularly twisted, with my opinions tangled in emotions I didn’t know, I walked out of Sitka, Alaska eager to return, but strangely left with the haunting sense that I didn’t pick up much of it, I could feel the story somewhere in the back of my mind, the way it’s snowy aesthetics and carefully crafted cultural rivalry chew at the edges of the mind, and I’m sure Chabon is up to something back there, he is more than clever enough to realize the imprint his imagination can leave in us, but Sitka mearly clarified my world of jews and made their honor perhaps more apparent, in a weird way The Yiddish Policemen’s Union might be every zionists’ dream, to have an aethetist do your work for you, while you can sit there and merely pretend your implications have been cut.

The New York Review of books loved it though.

August 27, 2007 at 8:47 am Leave a comment

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