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A Reader's Manifesto: An Attack on the…
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A Reader's Manifesto: An Attack on the Growing Pretentiousness in American Literary Prose (original 2002; edição 2002)

por B. R. Myers (Autor)

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2791294,703 (3.99)14
Now available in book-length form for the first time, the manifesto that caused a sensation when it first appeared as an excerpt in the Atlantic Monthly includes a new essay addressing the storm of controversy elicited by its initial publication. In this updated version, Myers goes beyond merely taking on such literary giants as Don DeLillo, E Annie Proulx, and Cormac McCarthy, examining the literary hierarchy that perpetuates the status quo, questioning literary review and the awarding of literary prizes, and championing clear writing, finding it in a wide range of writers, from 'pop' novelists such as Stephen King to more 'serious' literary heavyweights such as W Somerset Maugham. Ending on a humorous note, Myers offers his 'Ten Rules for 'Serious' Writers'.… (mais)
Membro:Edwin_Oldham
Título:A Reader's Manifesto: An Attack on the Growing Pretentiousness in American Literary Prose
Autores:B. R. Myers (Autor)
Informação:Melville House (2002), Edition: 1, 160 pages
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A Reader's Manifesto: An Attack on the Growing Pretentiousness in American Literary Prose por B. R. Myers (2002)

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    Talents and Technicians: Literary Chic and the New Assembly-Line Fiction por John W. Aldridge (proximity1)
    proximity1: Both of these books have _much_ to tell us--not only about what is and has long been the trouble with so much in the notions of many in the publishing industry and the academy concerning what constitutes good writing but also with society in so many of its aspects. Some have criticized Myer's thesis as a "rant". If so, it's a rant which is very important and much-needed.… (mais)
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I don't read much "Literary Fiction." I stopped about 10 years ago when I realized it was as much of a genre as any other genre of fiction. And just as there are people who do not enjoy thrillers or speculative fiction, I simply do not enjoy most modern literary fiction. The poetic language and focus on crafting sentences wasn't what I sought in my fiction. If I want that, I read poetry. If I want well-written stories that focus on narrative and character development, I tend to read classic novels.

BR Myers wrote this book for people like me, to let us know that we are not alone. It was originally published as an essay in the Atlantic, and expanded to book form when the essay received a lot of attention, good and bad. In it, he takes on 5 highly praised writers, and the literary establishment in general. From the introduction: "Give me a time-tested masterpiece or what critics patronizingly call a fun read, Sister Carrie or just plain Carrie. Give me anything, in fact, as long as it isn't the latest must-read novel, complete with a prize jury's seal of approval on the front and a clutch of precious raves on the back."

Through the next few chapters he then proceeds to explain why he thinks certain literary authors are not in fact very good writers and do not deserve the critical praise heaped upon them. His tone can be very snarky, and piles scorn upon the reviewers who praise these writers, but he does make some excellent points. (And, granted, with me he was preaching to the choir.)

From the conclusion, which summarizes his views succinctly: "...Oprah Winfrey told of calling Toni Morrison to say she had had to puzzle repeatedly over many of the latter's sentences. ...Morrison's reply was: 'That, my dear, is called reading.' Sorry, my dear Toni, but it's actually called bad writing."

If that line strikes a chord with you, or even makes you angry, then this is probably a book you should read, if for no other reason than to contend with Myers' ideas. ( )
1 vote rumbledethumps | Mar 23, 2021 |
This is still a spot-on criticism of the trend to praise books which are pretentious, over-written, and make little sense.
Author Myers picks five authors: Proulx, Auster, Cormac McCarthy, Delillo, and Guterson, and devotes a chapter to skewering the works of each one.
Myers uses extensive quotes from each book, and carefully analyzes each one as an example of execrable writing...and every quote he chooses has been praised by more than one literary critic as being illustrative of brilliant modern prose
This is a brief polemic, really a long essay, against the narrow herd mentality of the “literary elite.” I wish the book had been longer to allow for the inclusion of examples of outstanding writing. Also, I think his choice of Guterson was unfortunate since Guterson’s output has been limited. My feelings were a little hurt by his dismissal of White Oleander. And I was appalled to see Michael Dirda’s reaction...he refused to read it, since he disagreed with Myers’s proposition. Oh, come on, Mr. Dirda, you’re a better man than that: it’s a short piece. Read it and dissect it if you wish, but don’t stick your nose in the air...unless you truly are a snob who doesn’t care to defend his positions. ( )
1 vote Matke | Aug 28, 2018 |
Provocative and controversial, Myers makes a good case for the proposition that back scratching, log rolling and, in general, hoping that writing a good review of another writer's book will cause them to do the same for you and results in the promotion and endorsement of a lot of bad writing as good. ( )
  DinoReader | Aug 21, 2014 |
I once had the dubious honor of working with an English graduate student who considered me, if not his intellectual equal, then at least as someone in sympathy with his idea of the "life of the mind." This unfortunate state of affairs gave rise to a number of hilariously surreal encounters, particularly when any difference in opinion would arise between us. Of a somewhat parochial understanding, and having assigned me to the role of fellow "intellectual," he was invariably at a loss to comprehend how I could have arrived at any judgment in opposition to his own.

Take, for instance, our discussion of the movie Clueless, which offers a modern teenage adaptation (or satire, depending upon your view) of Jane Austen's classic novel Emma. I can still recall our endless conversation about the (non)-virtues of the film, in which I attempted to convince my friend that although I loved Austen's work, and could appreciate the parallels between her novel and the film, the "cleverness" (?) of the project was not enough to compensate me for the sophomoric and repetitive "humor," or the atrocious performances.

Having himself decided that the movie was a brilliant literary satire, in which a classic work had been "re-clothed" in modern idiom, he was convinced that my lack of enjoyment was the result of some deficiency in understanding. Imagine a conversation in which the following exchange is repeated, ad infinitum: "I understand what the film is trying to do, but I just didn't find it that funny... But you WOULD find it funny if you TRULY understood..." I'm afraid that no effort on my part was sufficient to convince him that my distaste did not stem from a lack of comprehension, and could not be remedied by his clarification.

So it is that I am predisposed to sympathize with Myers' critique of the so-called literary elite, and their elevation of a particular style of "serious" literature. How can I resist such a literary populist, or fail to embrace the idea that readers should trust their own instincts, rather than surrender their judgment to a cabal of self-satisfied critics? It is tempting, I think, to praise Myers' work, precisely because the "literary establishment" at which he takes aim does indeed suppress a plurality of views, and discourage a diversity of literary style and genre.

As for the specific authors whose work is examined here - E. Annie Proulx, Don DeLillo, Cormac McCarthy, Paul Auster, and David Guterson - I have not read a single one, and am perhaps ill-equipped to judge the overall justice of Mr. Myers' critique. The passages which he reproduces are certainly absurd, and he assures the reader that they are representative, rather than extraordinary. Perhaps it would be more just to attempt to read some of these authors myself, although modern fiction has never been high on my list of priorities, and the excerpts quoted here are certainly no inducement.

But although in agreement with many of Myers' general points: that contemporary "literary" fiction tends to be poorly written, that it has abandoned story in favor of form, and that it patronizes and bullies its readers, attempting to hide its lack of clarity and skill behind a cloak of false profundity; I nevertheless found A Reader's Manifesto a strangely unappealing read. I do not find Myers malicious, as do some of his critics, and I think it patently absurd that anyone should so expose their own intellectual limitations by accusing him of being a philistine, simply because he will not fall into step with the literary majority...

Perhaps it is Myers' own limitations that prevent me from truly enjoying his book. As a classicist, I do not think it could be said that I have any prejudice against the literature of the past, but I did grow a little tired of the author's almost elegiac insistence upon the superiority of previous generations of writers. It would have been more instructive I think, and strengthened Myers' argument, if he had contrasted the poor quality of today's "serious" authors with some of their more skilled contemporaries. If certain genre authors are doing a better job, then by all means, showcase their accomplishment. If contemporary non-American authors have avoided this trap of pretension, then let us hear about it. It may not have been his intention, but by focusing almost exclusively on bygone authors, Myers seems to imply that accomplishment in literature can only be achieved through some kind of repetition, or return to the past. I am not sure I agree...

I am always somewhat irritated, moreover, by works that are received as brilliantly original assaults upon some accepted truth, but which are in fact just the latest salvo in an ongoing conflict. Anyone who follows the children's literature scene, and has read any works of theory or criticism in this field, will no doubt recognize the "story versus form" argument that Myers advances. As far back as 1981, children's author and editor Jane Yolen was arguing (in a book called Touch Magic: Fantasy, Faerie & Folklore in the Literature of Childhood) that adults were being drawn to children's literature precisely because it had not abandoned storytelling for avant-garde experimentation in form. To be fair, I do not think that Myers has presented himself as any sort of vanguard, although his condescending throwaway references to the Harry Potter books are somewhat grating.

Finally, I must take a page out of Myers' own book, and judge these matters for myself. I am reluctant to accept the literary discernment of anyone who seems to have such a low opinion of Melville... ( )
2 vote AbigailAdams26 | Jun 27, 2013 |
Of course I enjoy reading a well-written screed against contemporary fiction; I like anyone who agrees with me that the emperor has no clothes. Myers focuses all of his criticism on style, however; "these folks can't write!" he exclaims over and over. The examples he gives (from Proulx, Guterson, DeLillo, and Cormac McCarthy) are in fact terrible. It's refreshing to have this named in print. All the same, I wish he would have spent equal time offering examples (from past or contemporary writers) of model sentences. I'd appreciate some effort to uplift the state of literature rather than just bad-mouth it.

What I'm waiting for is a screed that names contemporary fiction's inability to address the human condition in ways that illuminate it or uplift it. And offers corrective suggestions. ( )
1 vote ElizabethAndrew | May 13, 2013 |
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Now available in book-length form for the first time, the manifesto that caused a sensation when it first appeared as an excerpt in the Atlantic Monthly includes a new essay addressing the storm of controversy elicited by its initial publication. In this updated version, Myers goes beyond merely taking on such literary giants as Don DeLillo, E Annie Proulx, and Cormac McCarthy, examining the literary hierarchy that perpetuates the status quo, questioning literary review and the awarding of literary prizes, and championing clear writing, finding it in a wide range of writers, from 'pop' novelists such as Stephen King to more 'serious' literary heavyweights such as W Somerset Maugham. Ending on a humorous note, Myers offers his 'Ten Rules for 'Serious' Writers'.

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