9.19.2007

SWM Looking for BBoW

Via Gawker, a link to a long, initially vituperative, somewhat interesting, and ultimately frustrating article attacking "Brooklyn Books of Wonder" written by Eggers, Krauss, Foer, Sebold, etc. Sample quote:

Not that everything that touches the splendid borough is piffle. Besides BBoWs, Brooklyn has given birth to books ranging from Hubert Selby’s morbid noir Last Exit to Brooklyn to Neil Gordon’s garrotte-tight thriller The Gunrunner’s Daughter. Jonathan Lethem provides a case in point because his imagination is deeply anchored in Brooklyn and he writes of adolescence, especially orphaned adolescence in Motherless Brooklyn, and his narratives are peppered with references to popular culture. However, all of this makes for a mimetic re-creation of genuine experience that he knew as a child on Dean Street rather than as a childish adult on Dean Street. Moreover, Lethem doesn’t pull punches. On the second page of The Fortress of Solitude, a kitten is accidentally killed while the protagonist’s mother smokes cigarettes. Unless it’s Mr. Harvey in The Lovely Bones, no one smokes in BBoWs. They’d as soon smoke as fail to recycle. Also, a daring flight at the end crashes. Perhaps Lethem is striving for wonder, but he’s too smart to let it carry him away. He has, however, been carried away by his imitators. The BBoW authors have adopted Lethem as a surrogate father, and he ought to disinherit them.


He has some interesting things to say, but I take issue with his casual misuse of "wonder." Aristotole believed that wonder motivated all seekers of knowledge, and a guy as seemingly astute as this fellow claims to be ought to have found a better word. Like "fascination" or something along those lines.

2 comments:

Pete said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Pete said...

I found it frustrating too. I think he meant "credulity" more than "wonder." That would have compromised the tone he was after, I think. But maybe it could have used a little compromising.