威廉•加迪斯(William Gaddis,1922-1998)

威廉·加迪斯(William Gaddis,1922-1998),美国著名后现代派作家,一生共创作五部小说和一部非小说作品。曾于1982年荣获“麦克阿瑟基金会天才奖”(The MacArthur Foundation’s “Genius Award”),1989年当选为美国文学与艺术研究院(American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters)院士,1993年获“蓝南文学终身成就奖”(The Lannan Literary Award for Lifetime Achievement)。此外,他的作品《大小亨》(JR,1975)和《诉讼游戏》(A Frolic of His Own, 1993)都曾经获得过“美国国家图书奖”(National Book Award)。

虽然威廉·加迪斯的文坛影响力不容小觑,但他的作品却因为晦涩难懂的文字和内容,被部分评论家和读者拒之门外。普遍舆论认为,“他是最受人尊敬而又最少人阅读的重要作家之一”,而他的小说风格也被描述为“迷宫或百科全书似的、直接引语的叙事艰涩难懂”(转引自蔡春露,134页)。尽管如此,威廉·加迪斯在当代文坛仍然占据着非常重要的地位,他常常和品钦(Thomas Pynchon)、霍克斯(John Hawkes)、巴塞尔姆(Donald Barthelme)等著名作家一起被誉为是美国后现代小说的先驱代表。 Continue reading

2013年美国国家图书奖获奖作品《上帝鸟》

“我们需要找到一种方法,让我们在讨论过去时,能有自己发挥的空间,也允许错误的存在。即使我们对所探讨的主题缺乏足够的了解和智慧,我们仍然可以磕绊前行。如果不这样的话,就不存在对话。如果没有对话,话语就会枯竭,学习就会停止,相互理解的能力也就烟消云散了。”

—— 詹姆斯・麦克布莱德

James McBride and his The Good Lord Bird

美国国家图书奖,这一美国文学界的最高奖项之一,于当地时间11月20日在纽约举行的晚宴上揭开了其获奖者的神秘面纱……

始于1950年的美国国家图书奖,至今已有64年的历史了。而此次获得该奖(小说类)的既不是之前短名单中的两大热门小说:《前沿》和《十二月十日》,也不是刚刚与英国布克奖失之交臂的茱帕・拉希里的小说《低地》,而是——詹姆斯・麦克布莱德的《上帝鸟》。对于如此出人意料的结果,读者可能都早已有些心理准备了。文学界的获奖结果总是让人充满期待,而又不乏惊喜。

也许大部分读者都对詹姆斯・麦克布莱德及其获奖作品《上帝鸟》感到比较陌生。而此次其能一举夺得美国文学界最高奖,虽说是在意料之外,却也是在情理之中。

现年56岁的麦克布莱德是美国作家兼音乐家,生长于布鲁克林。他的父亲是一位非裔美国人,母亲是一位来自波兰的犹太移民。1979年麦克布莱德于欧柏林学院获得音乐创作学士学位,此后又在哥伦比亚大学完成了新闻学的学习,并获得硕士学位。作为新闻记者,他是多个知名出版物的撰稿人,其中包括《华盛顿邮报》、《纽约时报》、《人物》周刊等。目前麦克布莱德是纽约大学著名的名誉驻校作家。

在发表此次获奖作品《上帝鸟》之前,麦克布莱德已有多部小说以及剧本问世。他于1996年出版的自传体小说《水的颜色》,连续两年跻身于纽约时报的畅销书名单,并成为了美国经典文学作品之一。其早期小说作品还包括《圣安娜奇迹》、《歌声悠扬》,前者经好莱坞黑人导演斯派克·李改编为同名电影,后者入围有色人种促进协会形象奖和代顿文学和平奖决选名单。

麦克布莱德此次的获奖小说《上帝鸟》出版于2013年8月。小说以十九世纪五十年代末美国废奴运动为背景,讲述了美国南北战争爆发前夕的一段故事……

1857年,堪萨斯领地正陷入如火如荼的奴隶制度存废之争。小说的叙事者亨利·沙克尔福德是一个生活在这里的年仅12岁的黑奴。当史上著名的废奴运动领导者约翰·布朗抵达此地之后,与亨利的主人发生争执,并最终演变成暴力冲突。也就是在那个下午,亨利的父亲被杀害。变成孤儿的亨利最后被迫随布朗一道离开该地。由于亨利弯曲的头发、纤细的身躯以及柔弱的声音,布朗误认为他是个女孩,并把他叫做“小洋葱”;而亨利为了更好地生存下去也将错就错,隐瞒了自己的真实性别,以一个女性的身份一直跟随布朗辗转各地:在密苏里,他住进了妓院;在费城,他惊叹于那里的拥有自由的黑人公民,他们就同白人一样拄着拐杖,带着胸针和戒指,而对奴隶制毫不关心;在波士顿,他出席了一个废奴主义者集会,在会上每个人都会就黑人问题发表演讲,除了黑人。直到1859年,两人到达弗吉尼亚州的哈珀斯费里,布朗在那里发动了起义。亨利最后也找回了自己。

对于约翰·布朗这一历史人物以及其在美国弗吉尼亚州的哈珀斯费里发动起义这一历史事件,想必读者们并不陌生。《上帝鸟》也显然不是第一部关于约翰·布朗的文学作品,赫尔曼·麦尔维尔、兰斯顿·休斯、罗素·班克斯等都曾描写过这个历史人物。

但是麦克布莱德对该历史人物和事件的重塑却独具创新:他将虚构的人物——年轻黑奴亨利加入到布朗的一小群跟随者中,并通过他的视角以及夸张、搞笑、讽刺的叙事手法让我们看到了不一样的历史人物与事件。

麦克布莱德说:“关于约翰·布朗的作品已经有很多了。他们都是严肃的作品。……我想写一部让人们发笑同时也让他们思考的作品。同时,这种夸张搞笑的手法更容易接近于真实,而且不压抑。”

的确,《上帝鸟》是一本轻松的读物,其中充满了各种逗笑的情节。对于历史小说来讲,尤其是关于奴隶制和内战的小说,这是不同寻常的。但是,《上帝鸟》绝不是对约翰·布朗的挖苦。恰恰相反,对这位英雄的“戏说”,不是一种讽刺而是另一种尊崇。在麦克布莱德的笔下约翰·布朗是一个伟大的战士,但同时,他也激进、偏执,他也有缺点,也有会做出荒谬的事。他仿佛就是我们身旁的一个朋友,栩栩如生。当我们读到小说末尾,看到监狱中的布朗,仍在不停说道,我们不禁为他感到悲哀。他是那么独特,就如书名所指的“上帝鸟”一样——如此的罕见,以至于谁见到它都不禁惊叹一声“上帝啊!”。麦克布莱德通过这种让约翰·布朗更人性化的手法,给约翰·布朗献上了自己的赞歌。

在小说中,约翰·布朗是一个疯狂不羁的老人,但他却比以往任何时候更具英雄的魅力。也许该书最大的意义就在于:它再次让人们思考历史书写与小说之间的关系。

麦克布莱德无疑是尊重历史的。他煞费苦心地加入了诸多历史细节,如和哈丽特·塔布曼的会面、道格拉斯和布朗最终的分道扬镳等。尽管“书中夸张的人物做着滑稽的事情,但它确是建立在真实的事件之上。” 其实,《上帝鸟》中所讲述的大部分的事件都是真实发生过的,但是如何证明这一点呢?无法证明。我们对于约翰·布朗的了解都是从别人的讲述中得来的。麦克布莱德认为:“研究约翰·布朗的历史学家根据一系列标准频繁改变他们书写的目的。这些标准在今天看来可能是不相关的,或者不是那么值得信赖。事实上,决定写什么而忽略什么这一行为本身就让人对所有的非小说写作产生质疑。这样说来,小说也可以更加接近真实。”

对于历史书写和小说的关系,麦克布莱德给出了自己的答案。他的小说《上帝鸟》无疑是对其观点的实践。在该小说中,他将历史和幻想相糅合,立足小人物的视角让我们对约翰·布朗的传奇故事有了新的理解和看法。《上帝鸟》通过小说的形式实现了历史书籍不曾实现的效果。也许只有时间能说明它是否能够成为经典,但就其主题和写作手法而言,《上帝鸟》无疑是2013年最重要的小说之一。【陈妍颖/文】

【RT】Alice Munro: Her subject is ‘simply life itself’

The following is a repost from The Washington Post:

Alice Munro: Her subject is ‘simply life itself’

By Ben Dolnick, Friday, October 11, 12:40 AM

Alice Munro wins Nobel Prize for literature: Alice Munro, “a master of the contemporary short story,” receives the prestigious award from the Royal Swedish Academy. The Canadian is the 13th female literature laureate in the 112-year history of the Nobel Prizes.

In describing Alice Munro, the Canadian novelist Margaret Atwood once wrote: “She’s the kind of writer about whom it is often said — no matter how well known she becomes — that she ought to be better known.”

Atwood’s dictum is about to be put to the test: Munro, the revered 82-year-old Canadian writer, has just won the Nobel Prize.

In awarding her the prize — which comes with 8 million Swedish kronor, or about $1.2 million — the committee has made official what Munro’s legions of fans have been saying for years: She is the master of the contemporary short story.

Fans won’t be surprised to hear that Munro, famously modest, responded by asking that the attention be immediately shared. “When I began writing there was a very small community of Canadian writers and little attention was paid by the world,” she said. “Now Canadian writers are read, admired and respected around the globe. I’m so thrilled to be chosen as this year’s Nobel Prize for Literature recipient. I hope it fosters further interest in all Canadian writers. I also hope that this brings further recognition to the short-story form.”

In recent years, the Nobel Prize in Literature has become an occasion, at least in North America, for sheepish shrugs and head-scratching. Herta Müller, Mo Yan, Jean-Marie Gustave Le Cl éz io — for many of us, the Nobels have become doubly educational: We simultaneously learn of an author’s existence and find out that we ought to have been reading him or her all along.

This year, then, came as something of a relief. Those rumored to be under consideration — Haruki Murakami, Philip Roth, Munro — were all household names, more likely to be found on our bookshelves than in our crossword puzzles.

And even among those authors, none inspired quite the reverence among readers — and writers — that Munro does. Mention to a serious bibliophile that you like her and the conversation will shift to a solemn, almost embarrassingly private register, as if you’d interrupted cocktail party chatter to reveal a family secret.

This love seems always to be revealed with a certain hesitancy. This has mostly to do with the fact that Munro is explicitly a writer of short stories. Until she retired this year, her collections had been issuing from Canada as steadily as weather bulletins.

Beginning with “Dance of the Happy Shades” in 1968 and ending with “Dear Life” in 2013, her career has been a shower of stories. Thus, there is no single mountain peak — no “Beloved,” no “American Pastoral” — to which one can assuredly point and say: Read this and you’ll understand. Ask Munro fans which book to start with, and they’ll say, “Well, have you read ‘The Beggar Maid’? Oh, but what about ‘Open Secrets’? Or maybe ‘Hateship, Friendship’?” Pretty soon your suitcase is brimming with her essential works.

Munro’s publishers have tried, at various points, to cull the field. Everyman’s Library published a handsome volume of her selected stories in 2006. Vintage had done the same in 1997, and then again, more sparingly, in 2005.

Prize committees have done their parts to introduce her to the world, as well: She won the Man Booker International Prize in 2009, the National Book Critics Circle Award in 1998 and enough Giller prizes that she decided a few years ago to take herself out of the running.

But her books are just as much at home on the favorite paperbacks table as on the dais. She’s an author you read on the train, you read in bed, you read in happiness, you read in grief. She is, perhaps more than any writer since Chekhov (with whom she is constantly, and aptly, compared) an author whose subject is simply life itself.

In her second book, “Lives of Girls and Women” (1971), she wrote something like a credo for those who cherish this type of writing: “People’s lives, in Jubilee as elsewhere, were dull, simple, amazing, and unfathomable — deep caves paved with kitchen linoleum.”

Even among writers — a notoriously discontented lot — there was none of the typical carping or ­second-guessing going on Thursday. In fact, the news of her prize set off a virtual round of toasts.

Among the revelers was the short-story writer Jim Shepard, who said: “I imagine fiction writers everywhere today are celebrating the Nobel Committee having gotten it exactly right. There’s probably no one alive who’s better at the craft of the short story, or who has done more to revolutionize the use of time in that form, the result often being a 20-page story that demonstrates the breadth and scope of a novel.”

And Elizabeth Strout, author of “Olive Kitteridge”: “Alice Munro taught me things about writing that are immeasurable; she has dared in a quiet, steady way, to go to places of deep honesty. I will always remember the first time I read her story ‘Royal Beatings.’ I thought: ‘Look what she did — she has told the truth completely.’ And reading her story ‘White Dump’ for the first time — I remember that, too. I thought, ‘Look what she does, she goes wherever she wants, and I go with her.’ The authority she brings to the page is just lovely.”

Jonathan Franzen wrote in a 2005 paean: “Reading Munro puts me in that state of quiet reflection in which I think about my own life: about the decisions I’ve made, the things I’ve done and haven’t done, the kind of person I am, the prospect of death. She is one of the handful of writers, some living, most dead, whom I have in mind when I say that fiction is my religion.”

It’s somehow incongruous to imagine, but Munro will travel to Stockholm in December, climb onto the stage, and give a gracious, fitting speech.

Literature is one of those realms in which giving out prizes can seem not merely dubious but positively obtuse. Books like Munro’s are so deeply personal and idiosyncratic that it feels like a violation to subject them to the crude business of committee meetings and PR releases; you might as well storm a butterfly den with a klieg light.

But today, and from now on, that den will be a good deal more crowded. Alice Munro is a Nobel laureate, and the only natural response is delight. And then, of course, once the euphoria of justice done has passed, to pay the tribute that is beyond the power of any prize committee, even the one in Stockholm, to issue: to read her.

Dolnick is the author of “At the Bottom of Everything.”

On the Writer’s Elusive Self

【转帖自:The Washington Post

Joyce Carol Oates Interviews Herself

By Joyce Carol Oates, Published: September 13

All right, let’s cut to it — our audience, curiosity whetted by the ubiquitous social media, wants avidly to know: What is the most embarrassing thing that has happened to you lately?

Do you mean as a “writer” — or just more generally?

 
 
Don’t be circumspect! Interest in you, at least minimal interest, derives from your being a “writer.”

Well — I was in the grocery store yesterday, in the dairy section, when a woman who’d been staring at me quizzically asked, “Are you some kind of writer?” Vaguely, I shook my head no, as if I might not have heard the question, and eased away without glancing back . . .

And then?

And then someone who knew me breezed by saying in a loud voice, “Hello, Joyce!” — and the woman must have overheard . . .

That is embarrassing! Denying your own writer-self, and even as the cock began to crow, someone comes along and outs you! Is this some kind of absurd modesty?

I could not explain to the woman: “I am not ‘Joyce Carol Oates’ right now, but a shopper in a grocery store. And the dairy section is freezing.”

If police had arrived and demanded your I.D., you’d have had to confess — what?

My driver’s license, passport, social security — are all in the name “Joyce Carol Smith.”

Why not “Oates”? Continue reading

In Bleeding Edge, Thomas Pynchon takes on technology, 9-11 and so much more

【转帖自USA TODAY: Don Oldenburg, Special for USA TODAY 6:06 a.m. EDT September 14, 2013】

by Thomas Pynchon

Thomas Pynchon’s latest period piece, Bleeding Edge (4 stars out of 4) takes place in Manhattan’s “Silicon Alley” in the spring of 2001, during the calm between the dotcom collapse on Wall Street and the terrorist atrocities of 9/11.

Who better to fictionally address that surreal time than the author who, 40 years ago, in his masterpiece Gravity’s Rainbow, penned the opening line, “A screaming comes across the sky….”

Pynchon’s latest detective caper revolves around the picaresque adventures of Maxine Tarnow, young Jewish Upper West Side mother of two elementary-school boys, sort of divorced from her ex. She is a wisecracking, fearless beauty who runs her own uncertified anti-fraud agency and carries a purse heavy with a Beretta.

Like Pynchon’s past gumshoes (Oedipa Maas in The Crying of Lot 49), Maxine is quite the character. Her clientele of low-stakes hustlers elevates quickly when she investigates a suspicious computer-security company called hashslingrz. Its insidious geek billionaire founder Gabriel Ice may be skimming millions to fund Arab terrorists. But why?

That mystery opens the floodgates for the kinds of offbeat characters Pynchon is known for: Russian mobsters, a foot-fetish hacker, a black-ops killer, a self-made Zen master, a sleazebag pornographer, a professional scent sniffer—all while Maxine is yearning to be Angela Lansbury “dealing with class tickets.”

Of course, there are Pynchonesque names—Eric Outfield, Nick Windust, Conkling Speedwell, Bernie Madoff (oh, right, he’s non-fiction, but in here briefly because, hmmm, what’s that Maxine investigates?).

The Internet is a core character, too, from the underground Deep Web where online criminals hang, to the brilliant DeepArcher (think “departure”) alternative-reality, to alpha hackers who think that destroying the Internet means saving humanity. In fact, Pynchon’s powerful reasoning concerning the Internet should be cauterized into warning labels for websites, blogs, Facebook, Twitter and all the rest of it.

But Pynchon is no troglodyte. While embedding the book with concerns about the proliferation of technology, violence, media-saturated consumer culture and omniscient bureaucracy, he also fills it with telling mass-cultural references — from Kenan and Kel, Jennifer Aniston’s “Friends”-circa hair and Dragonball Z to Ally McBeal, eight-megabyte flash drives and the Macarena. “Nostalgia lurks,” as Pynchon writes..

As he often does, the author targets a grim, dark zeitgeist like some truth-seeking Stinger missile. He remarkably handles that disturbing day of Sept. 11, tilting the story and everyone in it, stunning the reader into an alternative strange-times reality where Pynchon comfortably dwells. Yet he spends no more than a couple of pages on the actual attacks, reflecting instead on its effect on his characters.

The truth is, Pynchon writes like no one else. He somehow injects love and humanity as the antidote to the dehumanization he fears and obsesses about.

He convincingly warp-speeds from one setting and characters to another within the same sentence. Even in his hyper-narrative ways, he remains the master of phrasing — cool, hip, explosive narrative fragments overstuffed with meaning.

Readers scarred by Gravity’s Rainbow, still muttering “incomprehensible,” will find this lucid dream far more accessible. This is not a start-and-then-put-down novel. It’s an exceptional literary novel that’s nonetheless a linear, joyous read set in extraordinary times.

Look, either you buy into Pynchon or you don’t.

If you’re willing to enter this bleeding-edge (def: more advanced and riskier than cutting-edge) novel, figure to come out the back page a different reader, probably better off.

At the end of the book’s advance proof sent to reviewers, the “About The Author” page is blank except for “TK.” That’s newsroom and printers’ lingo for “to come,” as in, “more content coming.” For Pynchon fans, it’s what you hope for — more heights of literary experience TK.

导师是我们的典范,我们自己心底的名流,我们要努力赶上的人

这是译林出版社yilinpress24堂名作家文学课 

“还没决定要写谁,先答应写。我从这些作家的话里听出了一种渴望,或者说,从他们的邮件中读出了这种渴望——他们意欲承认那些人在他们的生活中起了特别重要的作用,为此想要感谢他们。他们要用一个小说家能够采用的最好方式,也就是讲述他们之间有何关系的方式,来承认他们所起的作用。由于大多数际遇都是在作家年纪尚轻或是脆弱敏感的时候发生的,有些文章还带点苦乐交杂的成分。那时候的他们对自己的身份还不确定,对自己能做什么也不甚了了。但是,几乎所有人都表达了一种永远的感激之情。不管有没有苦乐交杂的成分在里面,很多作家都在回顾自己年轻稚嫩时发生过的对他们有重大影响的事情,也即权威人士发现了他们有天赋的时刻,或者他们自己相信自己拥有这种天赋的时刻——他们尚无目标的生活从此改变了方向和速度。他们明白了路该往哪个方向走,而比之更有效、更有推动力的又是什么东西。而这一点,他们过去是不明白的。这就像是被救赎了。不,是实实在在地被救赎了——从一种毫不确定、迟疑不决和平庸无奇的状态中得到救赎。”

以上这段话,出自《导师、缪斯和恶魔:三十位作家谈影响他们一生的人》一书编者伊丽莎白•本尼迪克特所写的引言。导师是我们的典范,我们自己心底的名流,我们要努力赶上的人,会让我们爱上他们的人,有时候,还是我们悄悄追随的人——方法就是情不自禁地去读他们的书。用这段话作为今天文学课的开场白,也祝所有的老师们,所有那些曾经影响过你我的作家们,节日快乐。

 


1988年,我戒了烟。同年,我开始跟着戈登•利什学习。戈登身材修长,英俊潇洒,头发斑白,更像是故去的史蒂夫•麦奎因,只是史蒂夫•麦奎因没活那么大年纪。戈登喜欢黄色的卡其布。他的穿戴是牛仔装束——帽子——猎装——膝部加增了衬垫的帆布裤子。他不带公文包,拿的是塞满了书和纸张的LL比恩粗呢袋。他已经出版了两部小说,还有很多短篇。目前,他是阿尔弗雷德•A.诺普夫出版公司的编辑,还是文学杂志《季刊》的编辑。他曾在耶鲁大学、哥伦比亚大学和纽约大学任教,而且他的写作班已经成了一种传奇。我第一次打电话咨询写作班的情况时,戈登告诉我:“不行,不行。”班级人数已经满了,可接着,他听出了我声音里的失望,动了恻隐之心。为了我,他说,可以破例一次。我们总共有二十二人——十七个女生,五个男生,年龄和种族各异——在修他的创作课。(有一个学生远从新墨西哥来,有一个来自克利夫兰,还有一个来自华盛顿特区。有几个则每次从新泽西、康涅狄格以及从郊区过来。然而,我们中大多数人都是纽约的。)我们每周上一次课,共十二周,从六点上到子夜时分。我们在上东区一个学生公寓会面。课的费用是两千四百美元。

  Continue reading