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I agree about Here Comes Everybody. It was a fantastic read. The best book about the way we live now. Thanks for the rest of the list. I am looking forward to getting back to reading for pleasure, after grunting and sweating under a dissertation for the last three years. It was on Thomas Bernhard, who you should definitely read if you haven't. I much prefer the novels to the plays. Woodcutters is my personal favorite. I laugh till I cry, every time.
Toggle Commented Dec 31, 2009 on The Best Books I Read This Year at Parabasis
My favorite line from Play It As It Lays is the opening: "Why is Iago evil, some people ask. I never ask"
Toggle Commented Dec 30, 2009 on One More Book at Parabasis
I find it troubling that Sontag wants to say that aesthetic response is moral to the extent that it is "enlivening". This is a vitalistic claim. This "enlivening" is surely an effect of the encounter with the work of art, something caused by it, something which happens to us, whereas the moral is linked closely to volition and judgment, to doing things. The taste of a strawberry might be enlivening, but that would hardly qualify it as moral. Her claim that sensibility "prompts our readiness to act" is given the lie gloriously by none other than Hamlet, who had sensibility to spare and nonetheless found action elusive. She wants to say that the aesthetic is necessarily defined by a certain type of experience, and this makes it moral, but experiences are not moral, actions are. I heard Sontag speak a couple of years before she died, and she spoke emphatically of the need for art to instruct. IIRC she used the phrase "lessons of the heart". This was surpising given her earlier positions. When I asked her to autograph my hardbound copy of Under the Sign of Saturn, she looked askance at me, almost like I had mentioned a youthful indiscretion, and told me to read her recent works as she signed my book.