*A Collection of Antiquarian Curios & Relics*
"As I was reading Duty (9780307959478) 35.00, probably one of the best
Washington memoirs ever, I kept thinking that Robert M. Gates clearly has
no desire to work in the federal govenment again in his life . . ."
--Thomas R. Ricks' review in the NYTBR
IN DEFENSE OF THE POSTMODERNISTS
I was as pleased as punch to see that Thomas Mallon had been added to the roster of writers that adorn the Bookends section of the NYTBR. As of late, I have been enamored with Francine Prose's dollops of wit and wisdom in this question and answer column, and I had believed Mr. Mallon would be a welcome addition. I met him many years ago at the GLiBA show, which at that time was still GLBA, in Toledo, and he was promoting his upcoming book, Dewey Defeats Truman (9780312180867) 14.00. Unfortunately, as he was seated alone in a booth with a large stack of ARCs surrounding him, I feared his promotion was not going well. I ambled over, asked him to sign an ARC for me, and rambled on about various books for fifteen minutes or so. He was a nice guy.
So before I read his essay, I was predisposed to view it in a positive light. But then I read it. And my impression of him became that of the old man of the internet quixotically shaking his fist at the sky while channeling Andy Rooney from the depths of Hell. It was not a pretty sight.
The question was posed: Salman Rushdie spoke recently about the power of 'negative influences.' What works have inspired you to take an opposing approach in your own writing? Mr. Mallon then disparaged just about every author that I admire. He made it abundantly clear that he does not care for the entire Postmodern genre. This is his 'negative influence.' Sure, Richard Brautigan and John Barth are not as popular as they once were, but much to Mr. Mallon's chagrin, I feel future generations will still be reading Vonnegut, author of Kurt Vonnegut: Letters (9780385343763) 20.00, and Thomas Pynchon, author of the Bleeding Edge (9781594204234) 28.95. Alas. By extension, I'm sure he would dump contemporary Postmodernists like David Foster Wallace, Haruki Murakami, and Roberto Bolano into the trash bin, too. These are Important writers. His way of marginalizing these authors was the repeated use of this example: A writer freed from the need to calibrate with reality could put a washing machine into the sky along with a rainbow. His ludicrous image reminds me of the Blue Whale falling from the sky in Douglas Adams' Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (9780345391803) 7.99. However, in the universe Mr. Adam's created, the Blue Whale was relevant to the story. Sadly, there was more than a tinge of sour grapes to this essay, and Mr. Mallon it does not become you.
So instead of belittling other genres in the fiction world, whether it be science fiction or young adult or romance, let us instead embrace the diversity. There should be a book out there for every person to enjoy and champion. And to me, that's what makes reading novels so darn fun.
Odds & Sods
And as for the aforementioned Duty by Robert Gates, we are expecting another batch of his book in today. This one will stick around as a bestseller for a while . . .
My new favourite children's picture book is Salina Yoon's Penguin and Pinecone (9780802728432) 14.99. It is adorable, it has a great message, and it has penguins, which isn't quite as cool as auks, but still pretty awesome . . .
And lastly, another book that has been creeping out of here has been Adam Minter's Junkyard Planet (9781608197910) 26.00. Did you ever wonder where your junk was going? Apparently, it is being sent to China. True story . . .