My Favorite Lit-Blog Things: September 29, 2011

Sasha reviews How to Keep Your Volkswagen Alive in her post: The Engineheart of Christopher Boucher’s Debut.

KfC is featuring a guest-post by Giller Shadow Juror Alison Gzowski.

Kevin A. Gonzalez has won the Narrative Prize 2011 for “Christmas Eve“.

Writers from Victoria are featured in Monday Musings on Australian Literature (Whispering Gums)

Times Flow Stemmed continues to spur me on towards more Beckett. The last quote he mines about, not by, Beckett, is golden.

The Quarterly Conversation has a nice review of Cesar Aira’s work The Seamstress and the Wind. Aira is definitely on my TBR after making the year-end best lists of several bloggers I admire.

The Guardian posits a list of The Ten Best Songs Based on Books

My least favorite thing: Infringement on and/or Punishment of Free Speech.

In Australia, newspapers are not permitted to run opinion pieces deemed offensive or “not…in good faith”. I am no expert on Australian politics, racial or otherwise, nor do I want to step in the hornet’s nest of the racial issue at the heart of this matter. However, the matter is a legitimate subject for discussion, even if the articles come across, to an American, as sometimes tactless. I definitely do not believe judges should be empowered to edit newspapers for good taste or the “reasonableness” of their content.

In a similar vein, “Turkish cartoonist to be put on trial for renouncing god.


11 Responses to My Favorite Lit-Blog Things: September 29, 2011

  1. Thanks for the link … and for your comment on the Bolt case. It’s been a matter of some comment, much of it hyperbolic, here of course. I’m inclined to agree with you that this it should not be a court matter … though I can understand why the complainants brought the case, and therein lies the rub!

    • Kerry says:


      The Bolt case is interesting as it appears from the text of the case (I know no nothing else about the specifics) that Bolt did get some facts wrong. I do see why people who are incorrectly held up as examples of culturally and apparently “white” individuals “passing” as Aboriginals for personal gain would be upset at Bolt. At least several of the witnesses were raised by the Aboriginal members of their family and so, it appears, were enculturated as Aboriginals. Bolt glossed over or misrepresented this fact, obviously.

      Still, I am always squeamish when courts and the coercive power of the state are used to censor comments based on the court’s determination of whether the comments were “reasonable” and whether statements are “in good faith”. This seems to me (an American and free speech advocate) to be a matter best remedied by a letter to the editor and/or other competing speech rather than legal action.

      It is more the law, perhaps, than this case, that I find disturbing. Laws should never proscribe public comments only because it is “reasonably likely….to offend” someone or anyone (quote from the Racial Discrimination Act of 1975). I think racial/ethnic discrimination is abhorrent, but I think squelching free speech is no solution to that problem.

      Thanks for the comment!

      • “I think racial/ethnic discrimination is abhorrent, but I think squelching free speech is no solution to that problem.” Can’t argue with that …

        Many argue that this case does not really squelch free speech, but the arguments get rather “fine” or could be splitting hairs! It all hangs off, too, what we mean by “free” speech. In Australia we have, I think, fairly strong defamation laws compared to yours?? Would calling on those have been more appropriate in this case? And to what degree, anyhow, do defamation laws trample on the right to free speech. Where should the line be drawn?

      • Kerry says:


        To the extent I have seen the arguments you reference, I agree that they are “rather fine” in positing that this is not a case about free speech.

        Australia (and Britain and France and most of the rest of the world) have pretty strong defamation laws compared to America’s. I think that is to our credit, but others’ mileage on that point varies, obviously.

        Still, my understanding is that there were factual errors in the pieces written and, even in America, making false statements of fact could result in a civil action. I would have much preferred calling on the defamation laws than a more general law against “offend[ing]” someone. That’s too broad. In fact, the law itself, construed broadly, offends me and, thereby, nearly violates itself (though it doesn’t offend me on racial/ethnic grounds, so I go a bit hyperbolic there).

        In America, defamation requires a finding that the public statement was false. I do not believe free speech protections need to extend to the freedom to knowingly make false statements of fact. It does trample on the freedom to lie, but I think that is a sufficiently clear line that dangers of overreaching by censors is minimized, while offering maximal protection to works of art as well as political and cultural minorities to express their views.

        This is all very American of me, I am sure. So, in short, yes, I would have had less trouble with an action based on defamation against a specific individual rather than a law that restricts speech which is “reasonably likely….to offend”. Scarily broad, that.

        Thanks again for sharing on this touchy topic.

  2. Anthony says:

    Thanks for the linkage, and please do read Beckett. There are surpassingly few of us reading his work.

    • Kerry says:

      I just finished Murphy and am writing a review. I enjoyed it very much and look forward to more of his work. I am enjoying the preview you are providing (for me, unintentionally perhaps) of works I intend to read relatively soon.

      By the way, if you want to read a new writer in the Beckett tradition, try Kira Henehan. She did a wonderful take-off on Murphy (I now realize) called Orion You Came and You Took All My Marbles which I reviewed here if you didn’t catch it last year about this time. Yes, I am plugging for Henehan because I really enjoyed her book and that was without a thorough knowledge of Beckett. It can only be better with more familiarity with his work. Try it.

      In any event, thanks for the comment!

      • Anthony says:

        Thanks for the recommendation for the Kira Henehan book. I’ve added it to my wish list.

        Murphy might be my favourite Beckett fiction.

  3. Just a final response … agree pretty much again. Oh, and I think our defamation laws are too restrictive. There’s always the problem of using laws to manage the greys. Anyhow, thanks too for sharing your thoughts openly and generously.

  4. The political correctness (although, I’m not even quite sure if that’s the correct phrase to use in this context) today scares the living daylights out of me. “Deemed offensive or not in good faith” – if people have to take offence, they can and will get offended by anything and everything. Could you make that statement any more vague, just so that any lawyer/firm can manipulate it as they feel like?!

    Re: the Guardian list – it’s an interesting list, but how – oh please explain this to me – how is Who Wrote Holden Caulfield not on it? And isn’t Pink Floyd’s Animals inspired by Animal Farm?

    • Kerry says:

      I agree that the vagueness of such laws is a major problem, as is the incentive to become offended whenever possible because, by being offended, you can either reap pecuniary rewards or silence opposing viewpoints.

      I think Pink Floyd’s Animals is a good contender for the list. Green Day too. Also, Iron Maiden has tons of novel-based songs. The Police too: “Tea in the Sahara” based on The Sheltering Sky (and, less directly, a Lolita mention in “Don’t Stand So Close to Me”). This sort of list is highly subjective. Still, I like your suggestions.

  5. marco says:

    Perhaps more obscure…
    The Cure’s The Drowning Man is inspired by Gormenghast, Jefferson Airplane’s Crown of Creation by Wyndham’s The Chrysalids. And then Metallica’s Call of Ktulu (sic) and Johnny’s got a gun, my old Australian favorites The Triffids (whose name was obviously borrowed from Wyndham) had Red Pony, Miss Lonelyhearts and Tender is the Night, the Go-Betweens wrote The House Jack Kerouac Built, and on and on

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