Critical Mass

Winter Sunday Roundup

By Jane Ciabattari

David L. Ulin on David Denby’s “Snark:”:  “…the problem with Snark is that Denby doesn’t take it far enough. It’s not snark, after all, that is the problem so much as all the sound and fury signifying nothing, the tendency of the media to comment less on the world than on themselves. Whatever happened to writing as communication, a way to share certain information, certain experiences, certain issues and beliefs? Whatever happened to the notion of engagement, the idea that media, such as they are, should be a two-way process, that we want to be part of a discussion rather than listen to a speech?

“This is the critique that gets thrown around about traditional media – that they’re prescriptive, hierarchical, interested only in promoting their views. But if sites like Gawker are the alternative, we might as well give up and walk away.

“No, what we need is a revolution in sensibility, a return to civil discourse, a way of opening, rather than closing down, debate.” And on the NEA’s new report on the rise in reading.

Mary Ann Gwinn reports on the rise in reading at Seattle’s libraries, a result of the economic downturn.

Art Winslow’s take on Sebastian Barry’s “The Secret Scripture:” “Much of the real joy of reading Barry is in the bobbing freshet of his language.”

Sylvia Brownrigg considers Hugo Hamilton’s “Disguise” and finds that Hamilton “seems to find it difficult to penetrate his characters’ interior lives.”

Kathryn Harrison on Jayne Anne Phillips’ “Lark and Termite” “inspired and gracefully realized.”

New blog as part of a Spring 2009 University of Alabama MFA course based on Kevin Prufer and Wayne Miller’s “New European Poets.”

Lizzie Skurnick, who in her down time is overseeing the upgrade of the NBCC website, considers Johanna Reiss’s “A Hidden Life.”

Sam Tanenhaus, Dwight Garner, Liesl Schillinger, and Joseph O’Neill talk about the NYTBR’s 10 best books of 2008 at Barnes and Noble Tribeca on Wednesday, January 21.

Yes, yes, it’s Sunday, but Maureen McLane’s “Friday poem” works just as well today..

New NBCC webmaster David Varno on the poetry of Roberto Bolano.

Jane Austen’s Facebook page.

John Freeman talks to the BBC about presidential reading habits, prepares to host a Granta event January 27 at Housing Works in New York with NBCC fiction award winner Jonathan Lethem and Joseph O’Neill talking about fathers. On that same night, Stacey D’Erasmo reads from her new novel, “The Sky Below,” at 192 Books in NYC.