World's Foremost Authority Dies at 102

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  • 12 Feb 2017 at 10:23 am #8837

    Rick Wallach

    Earth, receive an honored guest.
    Irwin Corey’s laid to rest.

    He made it to 102, proving the late great George Burns’ observation that very few people die after 100.

    The literary world will never forget when Thomas Pynchon sent him to the national Book Award dinner to speak on his behalf and receive the prize for Gravity’s Rainbow. It was one of the truly epic moments in the history of American literature even though it so offended the rectal broomstick brahmans that they revoked Pynchon’s Pulitzer Prize over it:

    Ah me. All the instruments agree / the day of his passing was a sad sad day.

    12 Feb 2017 at 12:45 pm #8839

    Richard L.

    Yes, and as the synchronicity of the universe would have it, I was just thinking of him while beginning to read William H. Gass’s FINDING A FORM: ESSAYS. I started reading Gass because Cormac McCarthy had sent for his books, according to King’s recent work.

    The first essay in FINDING A FORM is a gorgeous rant about the Pulitzer, and in fact I heard it in the Professor’s finger-waving delivery.

    “The Pulitzer Prize has perceived an important truth about our culture: Serious literature is not important to it; however the myth that it matters must be maintained. The high sounding ceremony is essential,” Gass says, “although Mammon is the god that’s served.”

    “…And if you point to the discrepancy between the acknowledged importance of our literature to our culture and the pitiful public support it gets, and decry the injustice of it, you will receive the same response I always have. Those addressed, like a cat, will not follow the direction of your gesture, but will be just curious enough to sniff nervously for a moment the end of your admonitory finger.’

    “The Pulitzer normally picks best sellers over quality works, and if its judges insist on oddities like GRAVITY’S RAINBOW, the Advisory Board will overrule them, as it did in 1974; and if the judges vote for some dim unknown like Norman Maclean, the Advisory Board will simply leave the year blank again, as it did in 1977.

    “…What the public wants, as the Pulitzer sees it, is an exciting story with a timely theme, but with material which is handled simply in order that the problems the novel raises can be decisively resolved. Ideally, it should be written in a style that is as invisible as Ralph Ellison’s invisible man, so that the reader can let go of the words and grasp the situation the way one might grasp the wheel of the family car.

    “The prize regularly stopped at the wrong station. Having passed all of Faulkner’s great novels by with scarcely a hoot of recognition, and Hemingway;s as well, and the best efforts of Lewis and Porter and Bellow and Welty too, it would halt and release its steam for lessor works when their writers were safely of world renown.’

    And if you’d prefer to talk about the Booker awards, you should read Tim Parks introduction to his book, WHERE I’M READING FROM: THE CHANGING WORLD OF BOOKS (2015). It makes additional points, equally valid. Awhile back, I read the rant, I HATE THE INTERNET (2016) by Jarrett Kobek, in which he says that the CIA was responsible for supporting American literature throughout the entire anti-Communist years.

    I laughed then, but indeed that seems to be the case. See Joel Whitney’s new book,
    Finks: How the C.I.A. Tricked the World’s Best Writers. I can’t help laughing again now.

    Professor, blessed absurdist, you sleep only like you did back on the Johnny Carson show. You will awake with a start in our memories whenever we hear such news.

    13 Feb 2017 at 7:29 pm #8849


    And I thought I was the world’s foremost authority. Very, very funny! There’s more than a passing resemblance to British jokemeister Ken Dodd, don’t you think? Tattyhilarious!

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