Replacing David Foster Wallace: Pomona College’s “Lit Prof Idol”

Earlier in March, word of the literary archives of the late David Foster Wallace landing at the Harry Ransom Center at UT-Austin caused considerable fanfare, for understandable reasons. Now fans and scholars — not to mention biographers — would have a chance to delve inside the working mind of the author of Infinite Jest (who committed suicide at the age of 46 in 2008) and pore over notes, an eclectic book collection, letters to and from noted literary colleagues like Don DeLillo and Jonathan Franzen, and course syllabi for the many classes Wallace taught over a decade and a half, most recently as a tenured (and highly-regarded) professor of English Literature at Pomona College in Claremont, California. … Read More

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Mash-Up Manifesto: Reality Hunger by David Shields

Books spotlighted by publishers as their key titles come with balls of hype trailing behind them. But it seems like we’ve been hearing about David Shields’ barely-200-page treatise Reality Hunger for ages, and it was only released this past Tuesday.

Maybe it’s because Zadie Smith used the book as a crutch for insecure introspection about her own writing. Maybe it’s because it’s already become required reading in university spheres, galleys passed from one student to the next like an illicit hit of crack cocaine. I know I’ve already had spirited discussions about Reality Hunger with friends and critical colleagues. It’s hard to resist the urge to argue with the text, especially when Shields states his intention “to write the ars poetica for a burgeoning group of interrelated (but unconnected) artists in a multitude of forms and media…who are breaking larger and larger chunks of ‘reality’ into their work” right there on page one. … Read More

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10 Things You Never Knew About The Simpsons

John Ortved’s The Simpsons: An Uncensored, Unauthorized History more than lives up to billing. In their own words, through direct interviews or newspaper and magazine reports going back two decades, Ortved serves up plenty of dish on the making of television’s longest running sitcom — not to mention its cultural impact, the fights over who deserves proper credit (and sizable cash payouts on a several-billion-dollar franchise that has made creator Matt Groening a very, very rich man) and why the show attracted some the brightest, craziest writers in the business. Ortved’s chewy oral history serves up a plethora of mind-blowing and fascinating information, such as:

1. Nancy Cartwright originally auditioned for the part of Lisa, but when she saw the mockup for what Bart was supposed to look like, she uttered “Oh man, yeah!” in a voice not far removed from one she’d used for The Snorks, an animated children’s show that had recently finished airing. Groening heard Cartwright and shouted, “that’s exactly it, that’s… Read More

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