Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Note To J.M. Bernstein

If you really want people to read your scene-setting introduction to T.W. Adorno's essays on the culture industry, it might be an idea to start with something a little bit more jolly than this sentence:

The contentious arguments surrounding the idea of an affirmative postmodernist culture have brought with them a persistent theoretical depreciation of the claims of high modernist art as well as a positive re-evaluation of the character and potentialities of popular (mass) culture.

In fact, you might like to take a leaf out of extemporanea's book, who has subjected the poetry of A.A. Milne to a Marxist-feminist analysis, and unsurprisingly found him wanting. Great stuff.

27 comments:

Dave again said...

Yes! More of this please.


Or anything else, actually.

Interpreter Pavlov said...

I have to say I was very nearly christened after an A.A.Milne character (not Piglet, no) but wisdom and good taste eventually prevailed at the font.

Could it be, however, that Bernstein's first names are James Morrison?

Wyndham said...

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.

Billy said...

My favourite opening line has to be:
"It was the afternoon of my eighty-first birthday, and I was in bed with my catamite when Ali announced that the archbishop had come to see me."

patroclus said...

Yes, exactly, you see - Prof. Bernstein has a lot to learn from the likes of Dickens and...[*trots off to Google*]...Anthony Burgess about getting the reader involved from the outset.

I can't think of my favourite opening line just at the moment, but don't let me stop anyone from nominating theirs...

Dave again said...

I did best of times on my blog last week.

How about: 'Call me Ishmael.'

And of course, there's always 'It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.'

Or, especially for you, 'This is the story of Achilles' rage.' Which is how my English tranlsation of The Iliad starts.

Betty said...

"It was love at first sight. The first time Yossarian saw the chaplain he fell madly in love with him" from Catch 22.

Annie said...

Aaargh! I hate that kind of academic writing, it's just plain bad writing.

(Re: first lines -

"It was the day my grandmother exploded." Iain Banks, The Crow Road.)

Wyndham said...

Betty is spot on as usual. However my favourite of all time has to be: "If a city is a lady then Houston is a whore," which is from the novelisation of Capricorn One. If Fareinheit 451 ever becomes a terrible reality I will personally throw the rest of the book on the fire, but I'll keep that bit.

Spinsterella said...

'It was clearly going to be a bad crossing' from Vile Bodies. My favourite opening chapter, in fact.

(That quote might be wrong, but I can't be arsed running upstairs to check. Bad knees.)

patroclus said...

Heh, Spinny - I read that at the weekend. Well, some of it.

V. envious about your trip to Hay, by the way - rain or no rain.

Wyndham said...

Gore wasn't very complimentary about Waugh, actually. No suprise there.

Wyndham said...

Or surprise, even.

patroclus said...

Oo, what did Gore say about Waugh? And what did Waugh say about Gore, does anyone know? He probably gave as good as he got, after all.

I may have to instigate a Waugh amnesty after this week, as he seems to have taken the place of Nick Cave as this blog's All Too Frequently Occurring Leitmotif.

Betty said...

Is there a thaw in the Waugh Cold War, then?

Sorry. I'm a bit lightheaded today.

patroclus said...

A thaw in the Waugh-Gore Cold War, you say?

Sorry, I've had four nurofen. Or is it nurofens?

Neurofens: cyberpunk-tastic William Gibson novel set in the flat, marshy mindscape of its lone samurai sword-wielding protagonist, who is known only by the codename xfvdr.

patroclus said...

OK, that made no sense.

Dave again said...

Did to me. I've got the first chapter drafted already.

Should you be taking four at a time? I've been using them for my poorly hand, and I felt the maximum single dose was two.

chuffy! said...

Ooh...lists. Me sucker for lists.

First line: "In the middle of the journey of our life, I woke to find myself in a dark forest, for I had lost the right path". Or possibly "Either forswear fucking others or the affair is over". Prizes on offer for naming the second, not the first.

Last line: Gatsby. No question.

Oh, and the Gore-Waugh jaw-war: draw for sure.

DavetheF said...

I've just been barred from commenting on extemporanea's site. I am an open proxy apparently, tooled up to unleash a hail of spam. What IS going on with my ISP ...

I think there is a book called the Tao of Pooh.

patroclus said...

Hello, chuffy!. Google says the second is Philip Roth's Sabbath's Theater, but I don't think I should win any prizes for being able to paste something into a search box (although god knows there are plenty of people who have trouble doing just that).

I don't know any first lines from books off by heart, but a quick trawl through my favourites has revealed that Cold Comfort Farm has a pretty decent intro:

"The education bestowed on Flora Poste by her parents had been expensive, athletic and prolonged; and when they died within a few weeks of each other during the annual epidemic of the influenza or Spanish Plague which occurred in her twentieth year, she was discovered to possess every art and grace save that of earning her own living."

The reason I'll never write a novel (apart from laziness and a total lack of creative imagination) is because it would never be as good as CCF.

DaveF: Statcounter says you're patching in from Mauritius. I think your ISP has gorn orfshore.

First Nations said...

not exactly the tinkle of silver bells on the tongue of the mind, is it.

...um, yeah.

chuffy! said...

You do win a prize, Patro. I'll just have to cut and paste it from the toy shop.

Tim Footman said...

Think I've posted this before, but what the hell, eh? It's the first line from Ian McEwan's first book, the collection First Love, Last Rites. The story is 'Solid Geometry'.

"In Melton Mowbray in 1875 at an auction of articles of 'curiosity and worth', my great-grandfather, in the company of M his friend, bid for the penis of Captain Nicholls who died in Horsemonger jail in 1873."

patroclus said...

I don't believe you've posted that before, Tim. Not here anyway.

This all reminds me of a super parlour game that my cohorts and I used to play in simpler times. A book is selected from a nearby groaning bookshelf, the cover blurb read out, and the players must all write down what they think the first line might be. The 'librarian', meanwhile, writes down the actual first line. All entries are read out and the players vote on which they think is the 'real' first line. Points to those who identify the right one, and points to anyone whose 'alternative' opener receives votes. Hours of fun for those mythical Islington dinner parties.

Roberta Swipe said...

"Foot knee shaggy belly face - famous hind legs..."

That ought to reel in a few more punters....

As Brecht once said - "what happens to the holes when you eat Swiss cheese?"


Love on ya,

Bob

ScroobiousScrivener said...

It seems marvellously fitting that I should return from a few days of blog oblivion, swamped as I was by "dynamic interstices of meaning"*, to find your cutting comments on academic blather. Fitting, but also annoying as I have missed so much good stuff and have that "always late to the party" feeling.

Anyway, love that Islington parlour game idea. Like Balderdash but better! Must attempt forthwith.

* A phrase that might conceivably have some meaning in some contexts, but I promise you it was here used to mean only "at this point I get a bit confused". ...And make your put-upon editor want to slap you.