December 09, 2007

I haven't read "Tree of Smoke," or anything by Denis Johnson, but I always do enjoy a decent savaging, and here is a book review that decides not to drink the kool aid like every other corporate book review outlook

...(noting that the Atlantic is hardly free of spanielish reviews when they think such are appropriate).

A Bright Shining Lie: "It would be a rare novel that did not yield some infelicities, but I defy anyone to argue that those quoted here are not representative of every page of Tree of Smoke. I might also point out that no book review can convey the tedium of reading bad prose in such unrelieved bulk."

....One closes the book only with a renewed sense of the decline of American literary standards. It would be foolish to demand another Tolstoy, but shouldn’t we expect someone writing about the Vietnam War to have more sense and eloquence than the politicians who prosecuted it?

Those two qualities are linked. There can be no deep thought without the proper use of words, as our current president never fails to demonstrate. This is why it is dangerous to hold up bad English as goodand why Philip Roth should know better than to announce that Johnson writes “prose of amazing power and stylishness.” There are people who will take that seriously. Less worrying, because so obviously lunatic, is Jonathan Franzen’s blurb: “The God I want to believe in has a voice and a sense of humor like Denis Johnson’s.” Really? Then God help Jonathan Franzen.

I have to say, given how truly fucking terrible Philip Roth has become, suddenly now a dreadful and even abusive novelist who can admittedly still write a beautiful sentence, anything he praises is bound to raise the monkey's eyebrows.

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