By Arthur Krystal

From small questions of style to massive questions about the nature of life, highbrow debate takes up a lot of our time. during this paintings literary critic Arthur Krystal examines what such a lot commentators forget about: the position of temperament and style within the forming of aesthetic and ideological critiques. In provocative essays approximately interpreting and writing, concerning the relation among existence and literature, approximately wisdom and sure bet, approximately God and loss of life, and approximately his personal sluggish disaffection with the literary scene, Krystal demonstrates that opposing issues of view are dependent extra on innate predilections than on disinterested concept or research. no longer beholden to any trendy concept or political time table, Krystal interrogates the standard suspects within the cultural wars from an self sustaining, even though no longer neutral, vantage aspect. essentially own and unabashedly belletrist, his essays ask very important questions. What makes tradition something and never one other? What conjures up aesthetic values? What drives us to make comparisons? and the way does a bias for one form of facts instead of one other give a contribution to the shape and content material of highbrow argument?

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Extra info for Agitations: Essays on Life and Literature

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However, there’s more to it than just one reader’s anxieties. The exponential increase in books has broad implications for readers and literature alike. Back in 1819, Washington Irving was already brooding: ‘‘The stream of literature has swollen into a torrent—augmented into a river—expanded into a sea. . It will soon be the employment of a lifetime merely to learn [books’] names. ’’ If I am any indication, Irving’s fears were well founded. There are dozens of novels by Balzac, Conrad, Mann, and others whose titles and subjects I’m familiar with but which I have not read.

He writes: ‘‘The struggle for existence among books is nowadays so severe as among men. If a writer has friends connected with the press, it is the plain duty of those friends to do their utmost to help him. What matter if they exaggerate, or even lie? ’’ Sounds like the survival of the loudest—and it also sounds all too familiar. Publishers drop huge litters, and books climb over each other, vying for attention. But even if such tactics succeed, readers may well become disillusioned by books’ repeated failure to live up to their billing.

None of which deters our poets and novelists from their selfappointed rounds. The literary world perpetuates itself like any solid enterprise that depends on product perception. Writers write, reviewers review, publishers publish, and new books come down the pike with pomp and circumstance (80,000 in the United Kingdom per annum; 49,000 in the United States). For those still inclined to read contemporary fiction and poetry, this is good news indeed. As for me, newspapers, magazines, and mysteries are quite su≈cient, although to be honest, I still dip into the odd poet or essayist now and then; old habits die hard and good writing (in small doses) still gives me a boost.

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