SIGN IN to access Harper’s Magazine
Need to create a login? Want to change your email address or password? Forgot your password?
1. Sign in to Customer Care using your account number or postal address.
2. Select Email/Password Information.
3. Enter your new information and click on Save My Changes.
Subscribers can find additional help here. Not a subscriber? Subscribe today!
“The worst review is no review. Blackest marks go to Harper’s, New Leader, New Republic, Booklist, a few newspapers & most of the quarterlies (they were busy measuring Henry James’s fingernails).” The foregoing–to which I’ve added punctuation and capitalization to conform to conventions of English usage–comes from a little book called Fire the Bastards! First published in 1962, the book, assembled with scissors and glued together with sheer rage, was the work of one Jack Green. Green, publisher of the magazine newspaper from 1957 to 1965 and an enthusiast of William Gaddis’s first novel, The Recognitions, took it as his ambition in Fire the Bastards! to catalog the complete failure of the book reviewing establishment to adequately reckon with the appearance, in 1955, of Gaddis’s 956-page first novel.
Green collects, under headings like “with fear & favor,” “and now, its [sic] boner time!,” and “condescension,” examples from the 55 “imbecile critics” who wrote about The Recognitions upon its publication. His aim is to prove not the worth of the novel but the worthlessness of reviewers, their lack of qualifications, their abundance of “condescending & selfdamning words”.
Originally published serially in issues 12-14 of Green’s newspaper, Dalkey Archive Press published a nice hardbound edition in 1992. But due to the beauty of modernity you can read the electronic version for free. I propose it as your post-debate boilermaker of a weekend read.
More from Wyatt Mason:
I recently spent a semester teaching writing at an elite liberal-arts college. At strategic points around the campus, in shades of yellow and green, banners displayed the following pair of texts. The first was attributed to the college’s founder, which dates it to the 1920s. The second was extracted from the latest version of the institution’s mission statement:
The paramount obligation of a college is to develop in its students the ability to think clearly and independently, and the ability to live confidently, courageously, and hopefully.
Let us take a moment to compare these texts. The first thing to observe about the older one is that it is a sentence. It expresses an idea by placing concepts in relation to one another within the kind of structure that we call a syntax. It is, moreover, highly wrought: a parallel structure underscored by repetition, five adverbs balanced two against three.
Percentage of Britons who cannot name the city that provides the setting for the musical Chicago:
An Australian entrepreneur was selling oysters raised in tanks laced with Viagra.
A naked man believed to be under the influence of LSD rammed his pickup truck into two police cars.
Subscribe to the Weekly Review newsletter. Don’t worry, we won’t sell your email address!
“Shelby is waiting for something. He himself does not know what it is. When it comes he will either go back into the world from which he came, or sink out of sight in the morass of alcoholism or despair that has engulfed other vagrants.”