David Letzler. The Cruft of Fiction: Mega-Novels and the Science of Paying Attention

In this thought-provoking, well-written study, David Letzler combines computer science and information theory with genre criticism to propose an innovative way of theorizing reader response to the excesses often found in postmodern and some modern mega-novels. These are “the extremely literate, erudite tomes around which one must plan one’s life for a month” (1) by such authors as Thomas Pynchon and David Foster Wallace, as well as James Joyce. Acknowledging that reactions to these novels range from passionate admiration to dismissive scorn, Letzler aims to delineate the ways in which they require modulation of readers’ attention and, in so doing, provide practical lessons for the information age.

Loren Glass, ed., After the Program Era: The Past, Present, and Future of Creative Writing in the University

After the Program Era, as Glass describes it in the introduction, “explores the consequences and implications, as well as the lacunae and liabilities, of McGurl’s foundational intervention” (1). After the Program Era considers sites and genres outside McGurl’s purview – poetry, electronic literature, creative writing in transnational contexts, creative writing programs at the margins. The collection consists of an introduction by Glass, 14 essays, and an afterword by McGurl. The 14 essays are divided into three parts: I. Antecedents (writers and institutions that pre-date the post-World-War II Program Era); II. Revisions (writers and institutions contemporaneous with the Program Era that complicate or challenge McGurl’s thesis); and III. Prospects (the future of creative writing). The essays are universally strong, and Glass’s introduction and McGurl’s afterword provide the necessary historical and critical context for thinking about the essays together and for thinking together beyond them.