Yet Naked Lunch, and all the great works of all the bad people above named [Toni Morrison, Doris Lessing, Anne Sexton, Derek Walcott, Oscar Wilde, Charlotte Brontë], are worthwhile not because they offer moral wisdom—very little great literature, aside from a few obvious exceptions (e.g., Middlemarch), does that—but because they provide irreplaceably intelligent or intricate or intense experiences of the world.
—John Pistelli, “Against Intellectual Biblioclasm” (13 January 2018; my emphasis)
Self-publishing in any event bespeaks a certain arrogance, but unfortunately this world so discourages most human effort that without arrogance very little would ever get done, and certainly nothing out of the ordinary.
—John Pistelli, “Literary Fiction: To Self-Publish or Not?” (27 June 2017)
(Cf. the announcement for Mr. Pistelli’s new book, Ashes and Portraits, here. Regardless of the reading experience—and I assume it will be good, gentle reader, for my copy is ordered & on the way—the above is the proper perspective on the disintermediation of the publishing industry: admire the effort, fear not the flood. With the unmuting of a sea of inglorious Miltons, our only negation need be looking away. But this one you might want to look into.)
Moral convictions alter with the decades, while strong representations of perennial experiences and compelling arrangements of artistic form remain to speak, in astonishingly different ways, to each decade.
—John Pistelli, “In Defense of Aesthetic Criticism” (23 April 2017)
(Technically it’s a violation of my protocol—single sentences serviceable as units or quanta of influence by virtue of an axiomatic, gnomic, knowingly elliptical, or willfully evasive quality—but I append the sentence that follows the above because it points out that quality: “This is so obviously—and even empirically—true that I do not really see how anyone can deny it, unless you find Oedipus the King incomprehensible or unendurable because we no longer expose infants.”)
To recur to a theme running perhaps too insistently through my recent reviews, it [“allowing others their inner life, the space to cultivate their selves”] may even be a more reliable ethic than the contemporary literati’s equally insistent appeals to empathy, which tend to imply everybody’s right to everybody else’s affectional innards through the medium of feeling—a right easily twisted by the powerful into imperial dominion over others, including the right to bombard or poison them, in the name of alleviating whatever real or imputed suffering the empath presumes to share with them.
—John Pistelli, “[Review]” (8 March 2017) of 100%, by Paul Pope (2005)
(Mr. Pistelli is one of the happy few who can be counted on for good sentences & “initiative, spermatic, prophesying man-making words.” What more can you ask for? Take that as the highest possible recommendation.)
Wouldn’t we have it all if Superman could be art and religion, if the mass-manufactured products that reared us (and reared our fathers and our grandfathers too) could truly compensate for or replace—via the novelist-magician’s ledgerdemain—the old high culture destroyed in different ways by both American commerce and European slaughter?
—John Pistelli, “[Review]” (10 Jan 2017) of The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, by Michael Chabon (2000)