The Screenplay-novel Manifestos

Less is more vivid

Friday, June 16, 2006

Salon's "Literary Guide to the World"

Salon is featuring a "Literary Guide to the World". It is a series of articles written about the literature of particular countries (or smaller geographical locales), and is essentially a way for readers who are curious about the writing that has been inspired by these places to have a single resource to turn to.

My main misgiving about the project as it stands right now is its emphasis on "name" writers, and the assumption that they are privy to a degree of knowledge less well-known people possess. There seems to be an attempt to brand the project, and I think that emphasis on literary celebrityhood might ultimately hobble the project overall; knowledge of a country's literature springs from knowledge of a country itself, and while the choices Salon has made so far seem logical enough, there is something of a danger that we may end up getting the occasional literary quickie -- supposed expertise from famous people who do not know an area quite as well as some lesser-knowns do.

However, as I said, the project has gotten off to a good start and is worth checking out.

Here are links to two pieces that I liked in particular, one by Tom Bissell and the other by James Hynes. (Though a note to Bissell: I wish he'd also included Mary McCarthy's "Hanoi" -- an overlooked book that serves as a valuable counterweight to Michael Herr's brilliant but inadvertently war-glamorizing "Dispatches".)


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