Samuel Delany’s Temple of Literature, at The Big Other:
“If one tried to construct the Temple of Literature from only the fifty “pillars” below, it would collapse spectacularly. Nevertheless, here is a contingent group of titles that, to paraphrase Christopher Higgs, if I hadn’t read and reread over the years, I wouldn’t be myself. How much that is worth, I’m not sure.”
It’s a great list, but for me the list is not complete without Gravity’s Rainbow… although maybe for Delany that book is uncomfortably close to the outstanding Dhalgren, which was written at the same time. I’d also replace Fitzgerald with Joseph Conrad, and…
Love art? Love science? Read The Age of Insight…
… Eric Kandel’s new book on the brain, creativity, Freud, and the pathbreaking artists working in Vienna in the first twenty years of the 20th century.
More at The Finch and Pea.
In Kandel’s own words:
There are two reasons for thinking that the cognitive unconscious may contribute to creativity. First, the cognitive unconscious can manage a greater number of operations than the conscious processes that occur at the same time. Second, as Kris argued, the cognitive unconscious may have particularly easy access to what Freud called the dynamics unconscious - our conflicts, sexual striving, and repressed thoughts and actions - and can therefore make creative use of those processes.
William Gaddis, in the closing pages of his colossal 1955 novel “The Recognitions,” inserts a brief scene that manages to be at once rancorously funny, brazenly self-referential, and spookily prescient about the critical fate that lay in store for his work. A book reviewer and a poet meet in a tailor’s shop; both are sitting pantsless while they wait for their respective garments to be adjusted. The poet notices an unusually thick book under the critic’s arm and asks him if he’s reading it. No, says the critic, he’s not reading it, “just reviewing it.