Tag Archives: Writing

The novel will survive criticism

“The novel, more than any other genre, is capable of containing large, developed, consistent images of people, and this is one of the reasons that anyone reads novels. The novel [...] can give form to a set of attitudes regarding society, history, and the general culture of which the novel is a part, and this too is a reason for reading novels. But the criticism which results from this motive runs the danger of treating fiction as a document, evaluating it less as art than as culture exhibit and ideological force.”

“It is difficult to think of another area in which the same assumptions have any currency, assumptions which imply that to describe, to define, and to generalize are somehow to sap the vitality of the subject. It is difficult to think of another area in which they are less appropriate. The novel is rich enough and intricate enough as a genre to demand the combined insights of formalist criticism and cultural history in understanding its tradition, and it is vital enough to survive any amount of theory or criticism, even if that criticism is badly done.”

From: sunnewsonline.com/new/?p=59080

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Novels as Weapons of Propaganda

“During the Cold War, the CIA loved literature”…

“Books were weapons, and if a work of literature was unavailable or banned in the Soviet Union or Eastern Europe, it could be used as propaganda to challenge the Soviet version of reality. Over the course of the Cold War, as many as 10 million copies of books and magazines were secretly distributed by the agency behind the Iron Curtain as part of a political warfare campaign.”

Doctor Zhivago, “The book, by poet Boris Pasternak, had been banned from publication in the Soviet Union. The British were suggesting that the CIA get copies of the novel behind the Iron Curtain. The idea immediately gained traction in Washington.”

“The newly disclosed documents, however, indicate that the operation to publish the book was run by the CIA’s Soviet Russia Division, monitored by CIA Director Allen Dulles and sanctioned by President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s Operations Coordinating Board, which reported to the National Security Council at the White House. The OCB, which oversaw covert activities, gave the CIA exclusive control over the novel’s “exploitation.”

“The “hand of the United States government” was “not to be shown in any manner,” according to the records.”

Read more: http://m.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/during-cold-war-cia-used-doctor-zhivago-as-a-tool-to-undermine-soviet-union/2014/04/05/2ef3d9c6-b9ee-11e3-9a05-c739f29ccb08_story.html

To be sure the CIA has its tentacles in the American publishing world, too: http://spywriter.wordpress.com/2014/03/14/the-cia-ideology-and-american-literature/

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Writers for the Revolution

…”what a work of art must do. And that is to tell the truth in a way that raises the intellectual, spiritual and emotional capabilities of their audiences. It need not be the literal truth; it can be a deeper one that lies at the core of the human heart.”

“Poetry, according to T.S. Eliot, “in proportion to its excellence and vigor, affects the speech and sensibility of a whole nation.”

“That’s true not only of poetry but all the literary arts: poetry, fiction, drama.”

“They can enhance our perception of our social milieu — what that milieu actually is and what it can and should be. Thus literature becomes a force for political development and reform. And if the writer perceives that his social milieu requires not just reform but a revolution, then the writer must harp on the need for a full-blown revolution.”

From: http://www.thejakartaglobe.com/opinion/el-indio-telling-truth/

Abandon Politics to Release Your Inner Artist

“There is a serious academic contention that one of the reasons that Russia produced so many brilliant writers during the nineteenth century was that the structure of government (under a centralising Tsar, with an oppressive and tight circle of advisors) denied most young men, even the well-connected like (Count) Tolstoy, any hope of a career in politics. Thus the creativity that might have gone in to policy-making and progressive political change instead went into literature, as a (relatively safe) space where political and social ideas could be explored, without too much interference from the censors. If nothing else, a return to the text might provide better outcomes than a resort to war. Defend the study of arts and humanities – it is the ‘finding place’ for the complicated, messy and dangerous world that we all have to inhabit together.”

From: http://shiftinggrounds.org/2014/03/a-message-from-sebastapol/

Cold War and the Battle of the Pens

“Were there similarities between the literature on both sides of the Iron Curtain?”

“Definitely. And the phrase itself is an interesting place to start. It is commonly assumed that the term was first used by Winston Churchill in a speech in Fulton, Missouri on March 5th 1946, but in Patrick Wright’s book “Iron Curtain” (2009) he traces the origin to 18th-century theatre. The iron curtain was a safety curtain that came down between the stage and the audience in case of fire. It was the divide between stage and audience and the whole political rhetoric of cold-war literature and its narrative discourse was marked by this profound opposition between self and other, good and evil, democracy and tyranny.”

“The idea of theatricality was the very essence of cold-war literature and discourse—the manipulation of language and information, the difference between appearance and reality, and the way the information was projected to the audience didn’t necessarily have roots in reality.”

[...]

“There wasn’t a definitive “end of cold war” response in Soviet literature because the dissident literature, samizdat (self-published) and tamizdat (published over there), proliferated gradually. In the 1980s the Western spy novels all featured good guys from the West and bad guys from the East and they were still very popular. Margaret Thatcher read Frederick Forsyth’s “The Fourth Protocol” (1984) four times. But by this time there was also a huge influx of “real” fiction, serious literature reflecting on the reasons for the cold war and near nuclear disaster, the metaphysical opposition of East and West—post-modernism. This was a natural response to the cold-war situation, given the manipulation of language and the pervading atmosphere of counter-intelligence.”

Read More: http://www.economist.com/blogs/prospero/2014/03/quick-study-olga-sobolev-cold-war-literature

Genre Boundaries are Fluid

“why do we divide books into genres at all? At some level, we needn’t. Looking at a book purely as an example of a genre can limit your understanding of both the book and the genre.”

“We are generally conditioned to think that ‘genre’ applies to books that are detective stories, or romances, or science fiction tales, books that follow a certain set of rules and are possibly limited by them. On the other hand ‘literary fiction’, the stuff which isn’t a part of these genres, is supposed to be completely unbounded by these kinds of elements, but many people argue that actually literary fiction is a recognisable genre of its own with certain common traits: social realism, an interest in the epiphanies experienced by individuals and an emphasis on prose craft. But you can find these qualities in genre fiction; crime fiction can engage with society in a very serious and real way, a fantasy novel can be about an individual’s own concerns and insights, science fiction can be beautifully written.”

“It is also good to be aware of the limits of genre, to know that genres can be fluid and that you should always look beyond genre boundaries in your reading and even in your writing!”

From: http://www.newindianexpress.com/education/student/What-is-a-Genre/2014/03/17/article2113810.ece1

The CIA, Ideology, and American Literature

“In a lengthy piece for the Chronicle of Higher Education, writing professor Eric Bennett makes a case that the Iowa program, arguably the most influential force in modern American literature, was profoundly shaped by a CIA-backed effort to promote a brand of literature that trumpeted American individualism and materialism over airy socialistic ideals.”

“The Iowa Writers’ Workshop emerged in the 1930s and powerfully influenced the creative-writing programs that followed,” Bennet writes. “More than half of the second-wave programs, about 50 of which appeared by 1970, were founded by Iowa graduates. Third- and fourth- and fifth-wave programs, also Iowa scions, have kept coming ever since. So the conventional wisdom that Iowa kicked off the boom in MFA programs is true enough.”

…”it’s just a reminder that we need to be wary of the sandboxes we’re building our castles in, of the institutions that define our creative thought so wholly that we often forget (or never bother to ask) how and why they were established in the first place. The MFA factory first farmed out postwar American lit according to a specific ideological rubric, it turns out.”  

From: http://motherboard.vice.com/blog/how-the-cia-turned-american-literature-into-a-content-farm

When Writers Draw from Life

“Gonzalo Mosca was a radical on the run. Hunted by Uruguay’s dictators, he fled to Argentina, where he narrowly escaped a military raid on his hideout. “I thought that they would kill me at any moment,” Mosca says.

With nowhere else to turn, he called his brother, a Jesuit priest, who put him in touch with the man he credits with saving his life: Jorge Mario Bergoglio.

It was 1976, South America’s dictatorship era, and the future Pope Francis was a 30-something leader of Argentina’s Jesuit order. At the time, the country’s church hierarchy openly sided with the military junta as it kidnapped, tortured and killed thousands of leftists like Mosca.

Critics have argued that Bergoglio’s public silence in the face of that repression made him complicit, too, and they warn against what they see as historical revisionism designed to burnish the reputation of a now-popular pope.

But the chilling accounts of survivors who credit Bergoglio with saving their lives are hard to deny. They say he conspired right under the soldiers’ noses at the theological seminary he directed, providing refuge and safe passage to dozens of priests, seminarians and political dissidents marked for elimination by the 1976-1983 military regime.”

From: http://m.savannahnow.com/latest-news/2014-03-13/survivors-pope-francis-saved-many-dirty-wars

More about Jesuits, Liberation Theology, Death Squads, and Dirty Wars, in AGENTS OF CHANGE:

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Unlikely Revolutionaries take to arms to turn the archaic Catholic Church into the leading force for change, and in the process they become the biggest threat to the U.S.’s interests…

The battle for change erupts and spreads from the Spiritual to the Temporal world. Agents of Change infiltrate the battlefields, and establishments of public and religious life, because with its murderous military-industrial complexes, rogue banksters, backward religious institutions, and corrupt political systems, the world is in need of a dramatic transformation…

Agents of Change right what is wrong…

The Art of Character Killing

“Readers may assume that killing-off a character, and a major one at that, is usually the moment of careful, systematic and exciting plotting for every fiction writer. Or that, it may be nothing further away than ‘a treat’ for the narrator who manoeuvres and ruthlessly employs every brilliant gimmick possible, bring down a character that has succeeded in either winning the hearts of readers or breeding loathing only letters can illustrate. Thus, the writers’ genius creates the monster or angel that must surely be killed. How can this be made tangible? Writers will agree that killing-off a major character in a story takes great writing skill, precision, suspense, style and timing and perhaps a lot more. Without some of these ingredients, a story where a major character (or even a minor one) is killed-off may appear vague, unjustified, irrational and unreal to readers who hold unto every word that leaps out of the paper with an almost total innocence. However, it will not be irrational to conclude that almost every committed fiction reader is far from naivety and digs into the story the writer brings alive, with a fierce critical mind that always produces a quiet plea that seems to say: “convince me that I am not reading fiction but reality reincarnated.”

More: http://m.allafrica.com/stories/201403101776.html/

Literature keeps language alive

“literature has one fundamental worth that doesn’t seem to strike most people. Those of us who write, read and study in a particular language help to keep the language alive. No language can stay alive if it’s static, it has to grow by people speaking it, reading it, writing in it. With respect to the literature in a particular language, this is the progression. If today, studying stops, then tomorrow, reading stops. If reading stops, then writing stops, and if writing stops then speaking stops. And if we lose the language, we lose along with it all our sense of culture,heritage and the knowledge of a shared past which binds us together as a community. And this is especially true in case of vernacular literatures. For whatever reason, nearly half the gen-next population today shies away from reading literature in their mother tongue or even speaking in it.”

From: http://m.coolage.in/2014/02/28/proud-to-be-a-lerd-why-studying-literature-is-important/