- - Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Poison pen

“Professor [Benjamin] Taylor has no doubt that Saul Bellow is a great writer. In his introduction, he mentions a meeting between Samuel Beckett and Bellow that he likens to the famous — and inconsequential — meeting between James Joyce and Marcel Proust at the Majestic Hotel in Paris in 1922, without any apparent awareness of the discount in quality on both ends: Beckett was no Joyce, nor was Bellow’s talent close to that of Proust.

“Taylor seems confident, too, that Bellow was a deeply sensitive man who felt that the import of life was to be found in love, possibly because Bellow was always proclaiming his sensitivity and was one of those men to whom the word ‘love’ came very easily. (A boyhood friend, later in life, once said of Bellow that he betrayed everyone who ever loved him.) Taylor thus misses, in his introduction, and in his editing, touching upon the two main questions about Saul Bellow: How good a writer was he? And why was there so gaping a discrepancy between the large moral claims made in his fiction and his own erratic personal behavior?”

Joseph Epstein writing on “The Long Unhappy Life of Saul Bellow” in the December edition of the New Criterion

One born a minute

“For a decade, from 1985 through the mid-1990s, comic book speculation reached its highest peak, something comic book dealers and collectors lament to this day.

“It was a time in which Alan Moore’s ‘The Watchmen’ was created and Frank Miller’s broody and gritty version of Batman, ‘The Dark Knight Returns,’ was published. Collectors snapped them up. The ‘Batman’ movie came out starring Michael Keaton. The comic book, ‘The Death of Superman,’ was published. Prices escalated. Comic book publishers took note of this collecting frenzy and churned out money-making collectibles — gimmick covers, cross-over issues, variant covers, polybags. Comic book price guides flourished, highlighting it all, focusing attention on ‘must-have’ issues.

“Comics dealer [Michael] Ring underscored the difference between collectible comics and comics that were made to be collectible. ‘For the recent stories we’re talking about, first appearance of Superman and a first appearance of Batman … those are exceedingly rare comics and rarely surface. … When people bring in their copies of ‘Spawn #1’ from the 1990s and think they’ll get thousands of dollars for them, they’re absolutely wrong. They printed several million copies of those comics and just about everyone who bought them thought they’d be able to sell them later for big bucks.’”

Jonathan Shipley, writing on “Super Prices for Superheroes” in the December issue of Fine Books and Collections

Not so disgusting

“In the preface, [philosopher Martha] Nussbaum writes that the politics of disgust has been used ‘for a long time’ in opposing gay rights. But that view cannot be right. The most prominent initiative in the gay rights movement thus far relates to same-sex marriage, and it made inroads only in the 1990s.

“Before then, no one needed a broad strategy to oppose gay rights, because there was no national movement to oppose. (The AIDS outbreak in the 1980s led to demands for greater medical resources, but not to national demands for ‘marriage equality.’) In fact, for most of the 20th century, gay rights and the gay lifestyle were rarely discussed in public because it was considered unseemly or vulgar to talk about intimate life there. Such strictures applied to everyone, as Rochelle Gurstein has shown in her remarkable book ‘The Repeal of Reticence’ (1996).”

David L. Tubbs, writing on “The Politics of Humanity” in the November issue of the American Spectator