Friday, May 31, 2013

I Say Stylist and Head for the Hills

An excerpt from the essay The Backlash Against the Novel

by Paul West

WHAT  IS THIS FICTION we are talking about? Surely nothing to do with best sellers and/or pulp “page-turners” or the old Dodd-Mead formula of one crisis every ten pages. No, it had to do with those deplored matters: formalism, interiority, the presumably ineffable unspoken, textural and plotly experiment, and structures flinched from the other arts. In my tousled head I carried a short list of practitioners, some of whom I knew: Barth, Coover, Davenport, Gass, Hawkes, Markson, Morrow, Sebald, Vernon, Hugh Nissenson, Poleskie, Joanna Scott, Jeanne Mackin, Janet Frame the New Zealander and Delia Falconer the Australian, plus James Hamilton Patterson, (Gerontion) and Michael Brodsky, a true heir of Beckett, and Claudio Magris, a picaresque heir of Svevo. There are others who will not now forgive me. I have trouble with the phrase “post-modern,” which always struck me as post-Renaissance, so I am aware of having flinched some post-modernists from that moldy ragbag. Asked to describe myself, I say “stylist” and head for the hills.

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PAUL WEST is the author of 50 books. He has received awards from the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters, the Lannan Prize for Fiction and the Halperin-Kaminsky Prize. He was named a Literary Lion by the New York Public Library and a Chevalier of the Order of Arts and Letters by the French Government. He has also been a runner-up for the National Book Circle Award and the Nobel Prize for Literature.

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Thursday, May 30, 2013

Odds of Passing a National Security Law - 17%

By highlighting journalists’ need to protect confidential sources and other information, the Justice Department’s recent seizing of AP phone records without notice may finally lead to passage of a federal press shield law. The Authors Guild, which has long backed the enactment of such a law, is part of a coalition of media organizations calling on Congress to use this as an opportunity to strengthen the First Amendment protection of press freedom. It’s going to be an uphill battle, says legislation monitor

Still, the moment seems right. Amid the uproar over the DOJ’s actions, President Obama has asked New York Democrat Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) to revive shield law legislation that was shelved in 2009. Last week Schumer said he would reintroduce the bill, The Free Flow of Information Act, and Texas Republican Rep. Ted Poe introduced shield law legislation in the House. Here’s the text of the bill from THOMAS (Library of Congress) and an analysis of the bill’s sections by the Newspaper Guild.*

Revelations earlier this month that the Justice Department had used broad subpoena powers to secretly obtain two months of call records from 20 telephone lines, including to journalists’ home, office and cell phones, in connection with a leak investigation drew condemnation from Democrats and Republicans.

The Justice Department has defended its actions by saying they were necessary to find the source of leaked information that could compromise national security. Opposition to its investigative tactic is far from unanimous. In an Op-Ed piece in the New York Times this week three attorneys who worked in the Justice Departments of previous administrations said the prosecutors were justified.

While neither we nor the critics know the circumstances behind the prosecutors’ decision to issue this subpoena, we do know from the government’s public disclosures that the prosecutors were right to investigate this leak vigorously. The leak — which resulted in a May 2012 article by The A.P. about the disruption of a Yemen-based terrorist plot to bomb an airliner — significantly damaged our national security.

At a time when citing national security tends to trump all other arguments, passing a federal shield law that would prevent similar intrusions on journalists won’t be easy. GovTrack gives the bill a 44% chance of getting out of committee, and just a 17% chance of being enacted. On the bright side, the press shield bill is ahead of the game: GovTrack reports that only 3% of House bills have been enacted recently.

The odds of passing a federal press shield bill may not be terrific, but bipartisan outrage and cooperation have finally brought it within reach.

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This article provided by The Authors Guild, 31 E. 32nd St. 7 flr, NY NY 10016


*Note: looking for the sticky wicket? It’s defining “journalism.” After all, haven’t Facebook and Twitter turned us all into newsgatherers and distributors? The bill deals with this (see definitions of “Covered Person” and “Journalism” in Section 4) by limiting protection to those who engage in journalism “for financial gain or livelihood.”

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