Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Laura Miller embarrasses Salon yet again.

I refer--predictably enough--to her review of Inherent Vice. Shorter Miller: Wow, I could mostly understand this book! It sucks way less than Against the Day, which I was TOTALLY right about the ineffable suckiness of, by the way. Oh, and Pynchon's fans suck, too.

You know what they say you should do when you're in a hole? That's right: STOP DIGGING. Move on already. So your Against the Day review was an embarrassment. It's not the end of the world. When I first tried (and failed) to read Gravity's Rainbow, I wrote a horrifically embarrassing amazon review (which I believe has since disappeared into the ether, THANK GOD). But obstinately refusing to budge and inch just makes you look childish and petulant.

Here's a gem:

There's nothing quite so dispiriting as slogging your way through 1,085 pages of increasingly repetitive and tedious folderol (i.e., "Against the Day") only to find that its significance ultimately boils down to not much more than sheepish nostalgia for the heyday of the counterculture.

Stupidest sentence ever written by humans? Well, no; the Sun-Gazette letters page provides us with worse every day. But this is Salon. You know, the site that takes its name from a word for seventeenth-century French gatherings of intellectuals? How much further would it be possible to fall?

(For a neat object lesson, scroll to the bottom of that IV review and click on Scott McLemee's 1997 review of Mason & Dixon. After Miller, reading a review by someone who knows what the hell he's talking about it a jarring experience.)

Let me make myself clear: the point is not "you're not allowed to criticize Pynchon." There's certainly stuff to criticize, and even if I didn't agree with you, we could surely have an intelligent conversation about it. But that is emphatically NOT the case here. Look at that sentence. LOOK AT IT! "Not much more than sheepish nostalgia for the heyday of the counterculture." "Shallow understanding" doesn't do it justice. It's just not something that a serious reader would say. It would be one thing to write something like that in November 2006--you're frazzled from having to read a very long book in a very short time. It's understandable that you might make a less-than-perspicacious statement. But Christ, Miller, the book's had nearly THREE YEARS to sink in, and you're still pushing this nonsense? I'm afraid that does not speak well for your intellectual acuity. Come on, Salon--between Laura Miller and Stephanie Zacharek, your critical bullpen is looking pretty anemic. Heather Havrilesky is good, but she mostly writes about trashy TV, fercrissake. You can, and ought to, do better.

To end on a positive note, however, the comments on the IV post are pretty great--virtually no knee-jerk anti-intellectualism; instead, as it should be, a pretty broad consensus that Miller is, in fact, full of shit. Which is as it should be. Perhaps Salon should hire one of those guys. They could hardly do worse.

4 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous pontificated to the effect that...

Eh, there's nothing wrong with writing an embarrassing amazon review. I have plenty of those from like seven years ago. They still keep attracting comments, thus occasionally reminding me of their existence. But whatever, man. What I wrote is something that I wrote, let it remain there as a cautionary tale to all.

- SK

8:12 PM  
Blogger GeoX pontificated to the effect that...

Yeah, that's what I mostly say--were I really concerned about embarrassment, I would have to go through the frightfully list of past reviews and cull like hell. But as I see it, it serves as a sort-of record of my intellectual development, so it has value in that sense. Still, me saying dumb things about Pynchon may be a bridge too far. Of course, I'm already none too happy with the Against the Day review I wroted...

9:47 PM  
Blogger :-| pontificated to the effect that...

...hey man if it weren't for me tripping, no stumbling over your review of ATD back then, I might not have enjoyed reading it as much. I read it 3 times. a piece of work...

Working on IV now and I'm getting ants-in-pants which is a sure sign I'm in for it.

7:03 PM  
Blogger GeoX pontificated to the effect that...

Well, I'm glad it worked for you. I'm reading IV as well (that probably goes without saying). I'll try to write a review when I'm done. SPOILER: I think it's great.

2:56 AM  

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