Tuesday, May 22, 2012

After an insomniac night followed by two hours of stunned sleep, I am feeling as if the physical world has assumed a slight transparency. A robin is singing a truncated melody outside my open window. The air is thick with almost-rain. I am sticking stamps on the envelopes and recovering from stupid boy arguments.
"Here's the deal: if you want me to drive you to school, I get the shower first every morning."
(Also I am wondering why the beginning of this blog post has such bizarre paragraph formatting. It makes me look as if I'm quoting someone else instead talking to you myself. However, repairing the problem seems to be impossible, so my inner page designer will try not to care.)

I've been reading a review of Anne Tyler's new novel and have begun another that considers Cindy Sherman's retrospective photography show at MOMA, and neither is helping me feel more at ease in this morning's world. When Joyce Carol Oates writes, "This is a spare, quiet, understated little novel, a slender autumnal tree from which most leaves have fallen. . . . It makes no great claims upon our imagination or our emotions," I can't tell if she is praising or criticizing the book. All I can say is that I  would hate a comment like that.

Likewise, when, in the first column of his review, Sanford Schwartz apologetically calls Sherman's photographs "emotionally detached, even a bit bland" and refers to the "objects in themselves" as "merely serviceable," "chiefly at the beck and call of Sherman the mime," I have no idea whether he plans to upend his opinions with a cathartic discovery of her greatness or to use the remaining pages to catalog her mediocrity. In both cases, I feel trapped in a fog. Where is the fiery grandeur that will burn it away? For now,  I'm having trouble believing it will unmask itself in the pages of this week's New York Review of Books.


David X. Novak said...

If that's praise that sounds like "damning with faint praise." Sometimes I think reviewers like to hedge because they don't want to be the one who says, "I can't see much of value in this Great Gatsby thing, a piece of ephemera that won't last longer than the morning dew." You know, like those reviews ridiculing Keats which everybody still remembers!

Dawn Potter said...

Poor Keats; he did have some awful reviews. I suppose, however, it's preferable to be soundly disliked than to be tepidly praised. At least I like to think I'd feel better about it, but probably I'd just be crushed and self-excoriating. Not like Richard Ford.


David X. Novak said...

That whole nexus of links is vaguely unappealing. If he had done a video of him shooting the book it would have gone viral, as we youtube viewers seem to thrive on that sort of thing.

Here is my own personal specimen: