More thoughts on a Reader's Manifesto / by Nathan Carterette

going back to Myers Reader's Manifesto provokes some mixed feelings. I remember not being thrilled about it at first, mainly because he's very critical of Paul Auster, my mother liked Paul Auster, and I couldn't stand it when anyone criticized something my mother liked! it's just all too mortifying. But I know enough at least now to admit that 'Smoke' was a terribly boring movie.

looking through his other published criticism I see a takedown of Denis Johnson (Tree of Smoke) and Toni Morrison, two authors I'm reading now, so that's unfortunate. Unfortunate because he is so convincing. There certainly are ridiculous metaphors in "Jesus' Son," and maybe I would have given Johnson the benefit of the doubt, the thought that there was a deeper thought there, except for Myers ruthlessly literal critique. 

but he is definitely wrong in one area. Here he quotes a passage from cormac McCarthy's "All the Pretty Little Horses***," critically: 

While inside the vaulting of the ribs between his knees the darkly meated heart pumped of who's will and the blood pulsed and the bowels shifted in their massive blue convolutions of who's will and the stout thighbones and knee and cannon and the tendons like flaxen hawsers that drew and flexed and drew and flexed at their articulations of who's will all sheathed and muffled in the flesh and the hooves that stove wells in the morning groundmist and the head turning side to side and the great slavering keyboard of his teeth and the hot globes of his eyes where the world burned. (All the Pretty Horses, 1992)


the syntax is indeed silly. But Myers also disapproves of the subject matter:

"The obscurity of who's will, which has an unfortunate Dr. Seussian ring to it, is meant to bully readers into thinking that the author's mind operates on a plane higher than their own—a plane where it isn't ridiculous to eulogize the shifts in a horse's bowels."

But in literature nothing is ridiculous, until a writer makes it so. Here is Nabokov, from a short story called "A Bad Day*****," writing much more artistically about the very same subject:

"From time to time this or that horse would half-raise its tail, under the tensed root of which a bulb of flesh would swell, squeezing out one tawny globe, then another, a third, after which the folds of black skin would close again and the tail droop."

unfortunately I have a good memory for things like this! 

*** Odetta singing 'All the Pretty Little Horses'

***** Mika singing 'Rain' (Baby, I hate days like this)