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July 09, 2009


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Michael Adams

Dean Jagger and Ernie Kovacs.

Mark Slutsky

Great post. Keep going!

Bruce Reid

I confess I initially read the Appel quote as regarding "psychiatry" and thought that an odd direction to go after citing Nabokov's praise.

It's an oversimplification, but I always enjoyed John Leonard's one-liner that the nouveau roman was a conspiracy to cover up the fact that the French couldn't write a good novel after Camus died.


The "nouveau roman" never existed, really. None of the new novelists (like saying novel newists) can be aesthetically unified, beyond the fact that they were all trying something new, that it was practically immoral not to do so. They weren't a school as such.


I'll confess to knowing next to nothing about ARG, but he's dead-on in that last quote....though I would say a world of "absolute value judgments" (in art) has gradually disappeared over time, perhaps because 'decoding' has become less a "supplementary pleasure" than a pre-requisite for (cultural) understanding.
If only we could all be critics....

John M

If I were smarter I'd add onto this, but for now: great post.

D Cairns

I read somewhere that ARG was in a plane that almost crashed. Interviewed afterwards by the news, he gave his account of what happened, and some critic/pundit pointed out he'd used all the tropes of traditional narrative construction in doing so.

Been watching a few of his films lately and thinking of writing something, but really the most striking thing about them is their repetitively pornographic character. They're skillfully made, and quite "sick," and ARG doesn't seem remotely interested in exploring why he's presenting these images...


Robbe-Grillet is someone I really need to start reading. I've read some Nabokov, but Robbe-Grillet is a huge blind spot.

Glenn Kenny

@Brandon: Well, yes, and one of the unfortunate side-effects of the internet boom in opinion-mongering is that so many self-appointed critics behave like "mere readers," as can be seen, for instance, in certain on-line dismissals of "Marienbad."

@D. Cairns: Yes, it was the very first crash of an AIr France Boeing 707, spring of 1961. Robbe-Grillet's purportedly "traditional" recounting of the incident was made into a tabloid version of a literary scandal. The maestro's own recounting of the whole thing, in his wonderful memoir "Ghosts in the Mirror," is interesting, here's a bit of it: "The reporter on the other end of the line doubtless considers me singularly lacking in a flair for the sensational: my account quite rightly seems to him objective enough but somewhat dull, whereas he has to make the accident as dramatic as possible. So he doesn't hesitate to put words in my mouth for tomorrow's press release, which will be wired to all the France-Presse dailies: a totally different version crammed with grandiloquent metaphors and stereotyped emotion. I read this two days later in Japan and am if anything amused..."

Well, like they say, read the whole thing, if you can. Great book.

As for the what we'll call the "content" issue, yeah, Robbe-Grillet's a big perv, and gorehound. Some of the stuff in "Project For A Revolution In New York" makes "American Psycho" look like "Emma." Apparently his final novel "Un Roman Sentimentale," which has yet to be translated into English, was particularly provocative in this respect. Robbe-Grillet's wife Catherine wrote the "erotic classic" S&M novel "The Image" under the pen name Jean Reage; it was made into a film by Radley Metzger in the early '70s.

Tim Lucas

The name Madame Robbe-Grillet used for THE IMAGE was Jean de Berg. She later published another book as Jeanne de Berg.

The only thing I've ever found that began to approach the kind of writing I encountered in PROJECT FOR A REVOLUTION IN NEW YORK was David Bowie's album DIAMOND DOGS. "There's a shop on the corner that's selling papier maché, selling bulletproof faces of Charlie Manson, Cassius Clay." If Argento filmed this book, half the world would scream, the other half would cream. It would be a spectacle worth witnessing.

Glenn Kenny

@ Tim: Oops. I keep reminding myself to not respond to comments from the hip, as it were. Thanks for the correction!


Where should one start with reading Robbe-Grillet? Is there a generally agreed upon place to begin? He intrigues me.

Glenn Kenny

@JF: I don't know that there's really a consensus, but for me the early genre-benders "The Voyeur" and "The Erasers" would seem like good starting points, in that they resemble conventional crime/detective works but then again...are not, not even close. From then on go nuts—I find that once one hooks into the style and decides one likes it, it becomes rather addictive. The steeped-in-sex-and-gore middle period ("Revolution...New York," "Reflections...Golden Triangle") requires a strong stomach, but if you've got it, go for it. I also think the late novel "Repetition" is very fine.

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