Commentaries - June 2010

Irving Howe's review of Ralph Ellison

"too feverish...almost hysterical"

From Irving Howe's negative review of Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man:

Though immensely gifted, Ellison is not a finished craftsman. The tempo of his book is too feverish, and at times almost hysterical. Too often he tries to overwhelm the reader; but when he should be doing something other then overwhelm, when he should be persuading or suggesting or simply telling, he forces and tears. Because the book is written in the first person singular, Ellison cannot establish ironic distance between his hero and himself, or between the matured "I" telling the story and the "I" who is its victim. And because the experience is so apocalyptic and magnified, it absorbs and then dissolves the hero; every minor character comes through brilliantly, but the seeing "I" is seldom seen.

Published in The Nation May 10, 1952. Here's the whole review.

digital monastery

Justin McDaniel, a member of the faculty here at Penn, has created a virtual archive of Thai Buddhist materials. It's called The Thai Digital Monastery and the web site is lovely--and shows the potential of this project as a virtual archive of far-off materials.

on the institutionalization of e-poetry & related topics

1. Al Filreis, "Sounds at an Impasse," Wallace Stevens Journal, special sound issue edited by Natalie Gerber, Spring 2009, pp. 16-23. [link]

2. Al Filreis, "Kinetic Is as Kinetic Does: On the Institutionalization of Digital Poetry," in New Media Poetics: Contexts, Technotexts, and Theories, ed. Adelaide Morris and Thomas Swiss (Cambridge: MIT Press, 2006), pp. 123-140.

post-isolationist New Zealander

Below is a small transcribed piece of a "Close Listening" conversation with Wystan Curnow, conducted by Charles Bernstein. The full recording is of course available on PennSound. The full transcript will eventually be published in Jacket2; it has been prepared by the remarkable Michael Nardone.

- -

W.E.B. DuBois on why he won't vote in 1956

In 1956, I shall not go to the polls. I have not registered. I believe that democracy has so far disappeared in the United States that no “two evils” exist. There is but one evil party with two names, and it will be elected despite all I can do or say. …