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Literary New Year’s Resolutions: That’s Mt. Parnassus, Not Everest

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Resolutions really should be grand, sweeping in scale. They need to embrace large scale effort, whether physical or psychic, and they need a point or purpose—even if the point is widely viewed as trivial. Resolutions should be pronounced as though they were forged on a mountain top, chipped into gleaming and everlasting stone.

The more daunting the resolution — I want to run 30 marathons in 2011, for example — the better. Because when I wake up in March and realize that I will not come close to keeping them, they’d better represent monumental failures. I know in advance that I will not keep them, so why fail at trivial matters — e.g., I will stop smoking this year. For failure to excite us truly, we need to fail on a grand scale. If I want to climb Mt. Everest — because of course it’s there — then I want to climb the world’s tallest peak without benefit of canned oxygen; that’s just the way it is.

That said, here are my 2011 resolutions as they pertain to the written word:

Read Proust, À la recherche du temps perdu, or In Search of Lost Time. In fact, read it twice, all seven volumes stuffed with approximately 1.5 million words. I think it was Truman Capote who said that reading Proust was like being hit by a tidal wave. If words were water, Lost Time would represent at least a couple of tidal waves. Also: be prepared to summarize its basic ideas. Note: try to squeeze in War and Peace, while I’m at it — just for the hell of it.

Write the following essays and have them published in the Journal for the American Medical Association (JAMA): “A Perverse Theory of Sleeplessness in the Fiction of James Joyce”; “Wallace Stevens and the Uninsured Mind”; and “Implications for Parkinson’s Sufferers in Ginsberg’s Late Poetry.” As a result, let these pieces be the impetus for JAMA to create a new award, in my name — the SF Award for Prolific Publication.

Wage a one-person blog war against electronic readers, notably Kindle and Nook. Say and prove that these inventions will cause the overall literacy rate to fall to dangerous lows. And throw in for good measure that these are not good for your eyes. Note: let this be subject for a fourth JAMA piece; aim for about Sept of 2011.

Deconstruct the novels of William Gaddis. Prove that Mr. Gaddis was, when it’s all said and done, a Mr. Know-It-All. Aim for publication in New York Review of Books or, failing that, The New Yorker.

Publish my own 500-page novel, Recalcitrant, a meta-physical work of deep protest against the Philistine literary establishment (c.f., those who read The New York Review Books; and, while I’m at it, embrace self-contradictionism). In this regard, practice my PEN award speech. Make sure to thank god.

Reread Faulkner, looking for inconsistencies in tone of voice. Start with As I Lay Dying. Be prepared to publish findings.

I could do more, but that’s enough for now.

 

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About Stephen Foster

  • http://viclana.blogspot.com/ Victor Lana

    This is a commendable list or resolutions. I would probably just choose one of these, and that would be the Faulkner one. I would invariably get stuck on Absalom, Abasolm! in March and by summer be mired in Light in August, but it would be worth it just to get that far.

    Happy New Year!