An Interview with Cory Doctorow
Subject:   A novel about wi-fi? Good god.
Date:   2005-03-06 04:29:21
From:   poboxbot
When someone, especially a writer with fans, like Cory Doctorow, goes online and uses a term like deconstruction incorrectly, as he does here when he implies it as a synonym for, say, "dismantling" or "exposing", he encourages and, unfortunately, even authorizes a common misconception about a major movement in literary criticism.

Based on his remarks in the interview, I'm guessing he doesn't have too fine a handle on "magical realism," either.

Doctorow's funny, clever, and inventive when he puts in the effort ("Down and Out"), but I get the feeling that's more of a rarity for him than a practice.

Most of his short works are marred by awful dialogue, stilted prose, and ill-conceived structures. Much of it reads like poorly veiled essays -- overbearing vehicles to push a technical or political point, with little regard for actual story.

He's excellent at self promotion -- a sort of a junior Dave Eggers (see interview) -- but I wish he'd put half the effort into the actual work as he did his own hype.

As for the new bit, it demonstrates an ungodly amount of hubris for a rookie author to take aim at sci-fi giants in such an obvious, public way. It smacks of an undergraduate English major writing Hemingway "parodies" for the school literary journal. Yes, it's all very clever, modern, trendy and po-mo.

But god, you should be so lucky as to be a tenth as talented.

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Showing messages 1 through 4 of 4.

  • a valuable guide to discourse
    2005-03-07 18:15:57  flwombat [View]

    I was all set to chime in with my own thoughts about some of the works discussed here, but then I realized that, not being a venerated literary master, I really ought to keep my mouth shut. I mean, I myself have only a cursory understanding of what deconstruction is all about; I've never even read Derrida! Imagine, someone like me offering criticism!

    Which leads me to wonder: is there a national or international accrediting agency to which I can apply for the right to reinterpret or rebut those works that form the foundations of our shared culture? (I hope there's a standardized test involved. I'm good at those!)
    • a valuable guide to discourse
      2005-03-07 19:36:03  oddjohn [View]

      Take a college course in literature with a professor who is into deconstruction. You won't understand a word he says. That's okay. Don't take notes. Just write down all his favorite buzzwords. Like trope. Trope is a good one.

      Read the assigned readings in literary criticism. Most of it will seem like pure crap. Read it anyway, and after a while you will realize that they are saying really obvious things in incredibly convoluted ways.

      In class discussions, you will notice that everybody seems to know exactly what they are talking about, and they talk about it with their noses in the air, using extremely elevated diction. Because of this, you pretend to understand also, and even bravely throw out your own occasional comment. You will soon become more courageous when you see your classmates nodding sagely after you regurgitate some of the crap you've read and heard.

      When it is time for you to make a class presentation, you will be momentarily terrified that everyone will discover you are faking it, but if you have half a brain and have learned to be a real phony, everybody will pretend to be impressed, and the professor will give you an A. Of course s/he gives nearly everyone an A, but what does that matter?

      Congratulations. Now you can fake it with the best of them. Of course, to get really good at it, you'll need a Ph.D., but one class is probably enough for posing as a member of the literati on the internet.
    • a valuable guide to discourse
      2005-03-07 23:53:33  poboxbot [View]

      You missed my point, flwombat. When a published writer throws around such terminology, you'd expect he would know from where he speaks. Such things are their 'bread and butter,' as they say.

      As for the other, I'm suggesting hubris because Doctorow hasn't earned it: He's a new writer and he's never done anything (to date) even approaching the level of Card's "Ender's Game" or even Heinlein's "Starship Troopers" (which I don't regard as any great thing).

      To put it another way: If you talk smack on the court and then play a bad game, you shouldn't expect people to take you seriously.
      • a valuable guide to discourse
        2005-03-08 04:49:14  oddjohn [View]

        The first few lines of the Wikipedia entry on deconstruction (not to mention the whole article) are enlightening regarding this subject. I'm sure it grates on the nerves of someone who loves (ick) Derrida, but deconstruction has come to have a looser accepted meaning.

        Maybe someday, in a better world where humanities professors are philosopher-kings, Derrida scholars can put a copyright on the word, so it can't be carelessly used by the unwashed ignorant masses.