Everything Is Nice

Beating the nice nice nice thing to death (with fluffy pillows)

Kafkaesque

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Kafka is a mighty presence in ‘Bright Morning’. I was particularly amused by the opening section in which Jeffrey Ford talks of references to Kafka being foisted on his proxy’s work:

If there is one thing that distinguishes my work from others it is the fact that in the review blurbs that fill the back cover and the page that precedes the titel page inside, the name of “Kafka” appears no less than eight times. Kafka, Kafkaesque, Kafka-like, in the tradition of Kafka. Certainly more Kafka than one man deserves – a veritable embarassment of Kafka riches… At first glance, it would seem that any writer would be proud to have their work compared to that of one of the twentieth century’s greatest writers, but upon closer inspection it becomes evident that in today’s publishing world, when a novel does not fit a perscribed format, it is immediately labelled Kafkaesque. The hope is, of course, that this will be interpreted as meaning exotic, when, in fact, it translates to the book buying public as obscure. Kafka has become a place, a condition, a boundary to which it is perceived on the pretentious are drawn and only total lunatics will cross.

I was reminded of a similar tendency with respect to JG Ballard. I recently wrote a short piece about this with respect to James Miller and Will Ashon and the fact that critics and publishers seem keen to nail the term Ballardian anything that moves:

Ballard has now reached the point in his career – edgy elder statesman – where the shadow he casts is so long that if you are a young male British writer and your publisher doesn’t compare you to him you should probably be worried.

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Written by Martin

18 October 2008 at 14:05

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