I do not, ordinarily, read lit blogs. I only read Edge of the American West for Dana McCourt’s posts, which are invariably smart. And thank god I do not read lit blogs, if SEK’s posts about Watchmen are any indication of their usual level of pretentiousness, which would, on that line, be utterly mindbreaking.
The second post in SEK’s Watchmen series starts with one of the most ludicrous tape measure remarks** I’ve ever seen. I’ll reproduce it in its entirety, so those of you with delicate sensibilities might want to click away here:
Some books teach you how to read them: Ulysses, Gravity’s Rainbow, JR, and Infinite Jest spring first to mind. From a purely formal perspective Watchmen belongs in their company. It does to the conventions of comic narrative what Joyce did to realism, Pynchon did to pulp, Gaddis did to dialogue and Foster Wallace did to sentiment. All the techniques discussed in the following had been used in comics before—there is nothing new under the oxen of the sun—but never in the service of creating a new breed of reader.
What the fucking fuck? Let’s count the worst crimes against taste, intelligence, and general decency in just those three medium-size sentences:
1. Gratuitously name-dropping the top three unbearably hip and unreadable lit scene novels (if we count everything by Gaddis as one) in recent history.
2. Putting those novels, none of which is more than mediocre and at least one of which is actively terrible (Infinite Jest), in the same category as one genuinely great literary work (it horrifies me that I actually have to specify which work I’m talking about here. Ulysses, ok? Ulysses.), and one that achieves actual beauty in places — you know, genuine aesthetic virtue? Remember that? Something that can be achieved when writers realize that the goal is not simply to fuck with the reader and ascend from the self-abuse-to-self-amuse kind of extreme wankery that is the stock in trade of people like David Foster Wallace?***
3. This totally opaque notion of books teaching you how to read them, a notion that is not in any way clarified in the rest of the post.
In fact, the post immediately refutes that initial claim with respect to Watchmen. Like where SEK draws all kinds of conclusions from an almost completely imperceptible-to-the-naked-eye change in the expression of one character’s face between two panels. If Watchmen were serving some kind of instructional role there, presumably it would make it possible for readers unfamiliar with the narrative (?) techniques in use to spot things like that. Instead, the use of that sort of hyper-subtle (if not totally imaginary) device can only be meant to communicate with readers who already know how to read the work in question.
4. “Creating a new breed of reader.” Seri-o-fucking-sly? Will this new breed of reader be able to manipulate higgs bosons and see the future? Because otherwise, not interested.
5. “There is nothing new under the oxen of the sun.” The oxen of the sun? What, scarab beetles aren’t good enough for you? Was this supposed to be witty, or just a shameless attempt to display minor erudition?
Also, the erudition is fake. It actually displays the blogger’s ignorance. The oxen of the sun were pastured on the island of Thrinacia, which was an actual island on the sea, and one to which Odysseus could sail in the Odyssey. Odysseus did not have wings. The oxen were not in the sky. Therefore, nothing could be under them. If SEK had said “nothing new under the chariot of the sun,” that at least would have been an accurate reference to Greek mythology.
This is totally unbearable. Please, please, someone find a way for me to read Edge of the American West without this guy’s posts.
* Strike one: the middle name. Only super-pretentious lawyers and people who have the same first and last name as someone famous use their middle name in correspondence/generally.
** Tape measure remark, n., remark evidently made solely in order to display the length of the remarker’s penis. As previously noted, this is not SEK’s first watchmen-related tape measure remark.
*** Another unnecessary use of the middle name. What a surprise.