Monday, May 22, 2006

Amazingly good things at the VLS

The absolute highlight is an essay by Ed Park called "Mehta Fiction: Enjoying the source of the latest plagiarism scandal" (do go and take a look, even if you're sick of that story); but you will not go wrong if you just start with the table of contents and go from there as your taste moves you.

I haven't commented here on all that Opal Mehta stuff, I don't have much to say really except that (a) there's a "live by the sword, die by the sword" element that nonetheless (b) does not excuse the cruelty and glee with which everyone seized on the story, doubtless motivated in large part by (c) the national obsession with Harvard; (d) I believe that plagiarism is a character issue and that Viswanathan definitely plagiarized and yet (e) I also was reminded of why I like Joyce Carol Oates so much when I saw that when asked recently what she thought of the Kaavya Viswanathan scandal, she said, "Leave the girl alone. She’s a teenager," and then wondered why the Times had published so many articles about the whole thing: "Don’t they have more pressing things to write about?" (Thanks to Mary Louisa and Lisa Coutant for the details.)

My piece on five recent books by Joyce Carol Oates is also in this issue of the VLS; I was pleased with how it came out. The books in question are High Lonesome: Selected Stories 1966-2006 (indispensable); Missing Mom (one of her very best novels to date, also indispensable); The Female of the Species: Tales of Mystery and Suspense (good clean fun, but somewhat peripheral); Blood Mask (a thriller published under the name Lauren Kelly); and Uncensored: Views & (Re)views, a collection of Oates's criticism that I found wonderfully enjoyable and stimulating and wholeheartedly recommend to anyone with an interest in contemporary American fiction. I love Joyce Carol Oates, she is a very special writer for me, so it was a particular treat to get the chance to write this one.

1 comment:

  1. The JCO article is lovely.

    I'm thoroughly sick of the Mehta stuff and don't think Park adds much of interest. Schadenfreude seems to be very deeply rooted in the human psyche, and I'm beginning to suspect that we need these downfalls to help us excuse and legitimise our own failings, our own daily 'plagiarisms.' Something like a form of both individual and collective projection.