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Category: Books

Look At Me

We consume images at an ever faster rate and, as Balzac suspected cameras used up layers of the body, images consume reality. Cameras are the antidote and the disease, a means of appropriating reality and a means of making it obsolete. – Susan Sontag, On Photography


A few days ago I watched Lana Del Rey’s SNL performance for which she was widely panned for being “boring,” “cringeworthy,” and “stilted,” among other things. Lana Del Rey, for those who don’t know, became an internet sensation last summer after releasing two music videos (“Video Games” and “Blue Jeans“). Those videos enticed viewers with an artist whose voice was inviting, but whose pose was perfected to the point of discomfort. It’s an image that works extraordinarily well in the lab (or a music video), but falls flat in the real world. Watch the SNL performance and you’ll see nervous hands, aimless eyes, mindless swaying–visible cracks on her perfect facade. We want our artists to perform; we just don’t want to know they’re performing.

At the same time I was watching Lana, I was in the middle of Jennifer Egan’s 2001 novel, Look At MeRead the rest of this entry »


The Adventures of Augie March: great or Great American Novel

One realizes that human relationships are the tragic necessity of human life: that they can never be wholly satisfactory, that every ego is is half the time greedily seeking, and half the time pulling away from them. – Willa Cather

One of my favorite barroom topics is the Great American Novel. This usually results in me and whoever is around listing their five or so favorite American novels. What starts as a simple project, ends in a cacophony of “what about X?” followed by: “he’s not American” (Lolita – Nabokov); “that’s not a novel (Leaves of Grass – Whitman); or “it’s good, but is it great?” (One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest – Ken Kesey).  By the end of the night we can hardly agree on a list of top five contenders let alone a single, definitive novel.

So what might the Great American Novel look like? At the most basic level, the Great American Novel must satisfy three requirements: 1. it must be written by an American; 2. it must be aware of its place in the American canon; and 3. it must, in some way, aim to give greater definition or shape to what it means to be an American.

Please allow me to put forward Saul Bellow’s The Adventures of Augie March as a candidate for the Great American Novel. Read the rest of this entry »