April 17, 2005

Not for yuppies

David Gates has a pretty entertaining book review of The Outlaw Bible of American Literature in the NY Times. The book's about William Burroughs, Henry Miller, Hunter S. Thompson, Charles Bukowski -- the usual suspects, but also some more unusual choices like Dave Eggers. Bret Easton Ellis does not make the cut. Here's an amusing excerpt:
Kaufman and his fellow editors seem to be fighting battles that were over with half a century ago -- in romantic-sentimental language that should have been over with half a century ago. ''Some of our best, our fiercest, our most volcanic prose,'' they write, ''is not a tongue-twisted Henry Jamesian labyrinth of 'creative writing' but an outraged American songline of tear-stained revelation.'' I can't sit still for James either -- who the hell can? -- but the editors ought to visit some creative writing classes: these days, both Jamesian maundering and Vesuvian spewing get the red pencil. And the attempt to transplant bebop-era grievances to a hip-hop world -- ''in the grip of Google and Wal-Mart'' -- only makes them sound clueless. This alternative canon, they write, springs ''not from reality shows, Botox or I.P.O.'s, but the streets, prisons, highways, trailer parks and back alleys of the American dream.'' Jeez, why pick on Google, the most useful tool since the stone ax? (That's how I found out it was Rahv and not Lionel Trilling or somebody who'd thought up the paleface/redskin thing. Took me 30 seconds.) And if you're all about the trailer park and the prison, why dis Wal-Mart, which melds the two so perfectly that writers should stop wishing it away and start hanging out there and taking notes?

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