THE POSITIVE MESSAGE OF NEW AMERICAN ART AND LITERATURE

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Rescuing Robbe-Grillet

THE ANSWER
to Cozzen's artistic ambition wasn't to deny ambition, but to point out that Alain Robbe-Grillet was no less ambitious-- his ambition being to remake the novel itself.

"--a grievous fault,
And grievously hath he answered it."

The value of Robbe-Grillet comes from his bravery; that he was an artistic rebel who realized literature had to change-- then sought to change it. Unlike most, he saw a problem. Only his solution was wrong. Though unwittingly his ideas fell in with the art form's Great Reaction-- its retreat into solipsism-- he remains a model and a lesson for all literary revolutionaries.

12 comments:

Anonymous said...

So Robbe-Grillet's a brave solipsist who has no readers but is placed on a pedestal who inspires lit people but should inspire revolutionaries? Is it possible he's just a writer some people like and some people don't? Or is all literature some zero-sum equation for you?

--the wandering jew

FDW said...

That makes sense tho-- to take from failure or not taking from experience what was not there in the first place, namely what was there before the instant and place of that experience, nothing at all, or as if nothing had happened, or leaving go for somebody else to worry about and forgetting what it was and writing about that so you can remember the next time and outside the box somewhere is the reader regonizing himself in you and you not knowing that, of course, committ to words that touch upon the reader's soul significantly.

K.I.N.G. Wenclas said...

??? It's not an either-or situation. He was caught up in the mindset of his time.
As with most people, there are things to applaud, and there are many things to criticize.
Most of his ideas are quackery.
But at least he was trying to do SOMETHING to get literature moving.
(It's in far worse condition today.)
(fdw-- please see my note on the "Value" thread on the Demi blog. Thanks.)

K.I.N.G. Wenclas said...

p.s. Solipsism is believing that we're all just an amorphous collection of writers, existing out of context, somewhere likely in outer space.
But, my friend, EVERYTHING has a context-- is part of some one or other flow or movement of history.
The problem with writers today IS their solipsism-- that they wish to deny the society in which they live-- an extremely class-ridden. monopolistic society.
Yet it's the writer's job-- more than anyone's-- to SEE this world, this civilization, and to report on it meaningfully.
If not us-- who else?

Anonymous said...

Where do you get this analysis? The cover of yesterday's New York Times Book Review was a review of Nicholoson Baker's new book. Baker's early books, including a memoir about John Updike, are full of distant, precise prose, not unlike Robbe-Grillet, that made him a post-modern darling. And his new book? Turning that gaze onto decisions made during World War II that still affect us today. That's not engagement?

Writers can't help but report on the world. Your critiques of them seem to reveal that you don't actually read their work - just their gushiest press. Naturally every writer's point of view is influenced by their position in society. But does that position negate their literature? (You don't think so with Cozzens, for instance.) Do you honestly think that working with mainstream publishers negates the message of their art? And if so, where exactly do you get your money? I know, I know, you don't have any money to speak of. Is there some magic amount one earns that suddenly means that their point of view is nothing but "podlike?"

--the wandering jew

K.I.N.G. Wenclas said...

??? I wasn't referring to Nicholson Baker. The person under question was Robbe-Grillet, a complete solipsist.
(And in my next post, two other solipsists.)
Sure, there will be exceptions-- but a trend is in place. I can't judge Baker, as you say, without reading him, so I won't.
But I also know that writers like him-- Updike a good example-- value language above other novelistic qualities.
Missing from them are POLEMICS, a demonstration of real passion and anger.
Everything is watered down and refined. . . .
I'll make a point of looking for Mr. Baker's book.

Anonymous said...

"I can't judge Baker, as you say, without reading him, so I won't.
But I also know that writers like him..."

How would you know what "writers like him" are if you haven't read his work? Talk about a lack of context.

My point was that there are plenty of polemicists in mainstream lit today. To state that there's a "retreat into solipsism" going on in literature is just cherrypicking. You make these grand, sweeping statements about lit today while making it perfectly clear that you're not really reading anybody in lit today. Thus, your arguments hold no water.

--the wandering jew

K.I.N.G. Wenclas said...

Hold NO water? Really?
I seem to be failing in unraveling your intense brainwashing.
In what sense does a British literary stylist writing about an event 65 years ago qualify as a true polemicist? How is he relevant?
To the extent that intellectuals read him? Yes, okay, I'll grant that. That's why I'll endeavor to read him, however unpleasant the prospect. (I actually did read one of his stories, in a trendy collection, once. I didn't like it.)
You were the one who compared him to Updike. This gave me an idea how to categorize the guy.
So you know, I have a big examination of Mr. Updike coming up, which you might find of interest. I have a long list of relevant points to make-- have only begun to make my case.

Anonymous said...

A polemicist is someone who writes in argument. Baker's new book is an argument. The sociology of his audience doesn't matter one way or another in terms of his being a polemicist - or relevant. (Who reads Cozzens?) Again and again you're passing broad judgment on writers without reading their work. (On your other blog, you apparently Googled David Gates and decided he has no understanding of underground lit.) That's just empty posing and it's boring to read. Here's yet another reader who'll move on.

--the wandering jew

King said...

Yes, move on, carrying your broken idols. . . .

K.I.N.G. Wenclas said...

p.s. WJ has a crybaby mentality. I'm not being nice or fair enough, or perfect enough according to the rules laid down by academy indoctrination. The real problem is that I'm questioning the status quo in the first place-- which he's not accustomed to seeing.
The point is that today's Jack Londons and O. Henrys, and even its James Gould Cozzens and John O'Haras (Lawrence Richette proof of this) are NOT being found by the mainstream.
In my imperfect way I'm asking, "Why not? How do we remedy this situation?"
The first step is to make noise about it.

Anonymous said...

You clearly have no idea whether or not Cozzens-type polemicists are being found by the mainstream because you're not reading the mainstream! You have no grip on the status quo in mainstream lit - if you did, you'd see that there's plenty of social realist work being published. As I pointed out, it was just on the cover of the New York Times Book Review.

But it's clear that you don't want to investigate the lit world. You just want to complain about it. I'd say that makes you the crybaby.

--the wandering jew