Friday, 1 November 2013

How to Sound Intelligent when Talking about Literature

Members of books clubs, book reviewers, literary critics, grad students, and the rest of America’s readers regularly talk literature in what Gore Vidal once called “book-chat land.” This ironic and disdainful remark was typical of Mr. Vidal: playful, cheerful, and jauntily dismissive. We think he had a more general remark to make on how we talk about literature and what we think we sound like (and what we actually sound like). Here is how to sound (mildly) intelligent when talking lit.

Talk about Fitzgerald, sure, but it is simply not culturally acceptable to exclusively rave about The Great Gatsby. The “literary” thing to do is drop names, like Edmund Wilson (literary critic extraordinaire of his generation) Ezra Pound, Hemingway, and the other literati of the “Lost Generation” (look, we’re doing it too!). Dropping .

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