Sometimes when I read a book review, it leaves me baffled. I can't figure out if I don't like the review or I don't like the book. And this was exactly the case yesterday when i read a lengthy review of What Ever Happened to Modernism? (Gabriel Josipovici) in the Wall Street Journal.
One of the upsides of this whole economic recession thing is that it's given me the opportunity to fill in some of the blanks of my so-called education. Modernism is one of these areas I've only recently checked off my list. (Watch out, Symbolism, you're next!) I've developed an appreciation and respect. So, when I spied the review in the Wall Street Journal yesterday, I thought it would be a great way to test myself.
Then there was the matter of the author. Josipovici is the author of the excellent Goldberg Variations, a "modern" novel that springs from Josipovici's textual interpretation of Bach's famous composition. Anyhoo...
So I can't tell if it was Josipovici or the reviewer, Eric Ormsby, but someone neglected to mention Walter Benjamin, the fellow who coined the term Modernism. This was hard fought intellectual ground for me, so i want to defend it.
What is clear from the review is that Josipovici take a broad view of Modernism and dives into Cervantes and Rabelais. The way Mr. Ormsby explains Mr. Josipovici's argument, this can make sense, but I wouldn't want to defend it myself. My puny understanding of the material, however, shouldn't dissuade you from at least reading the review. Myself? I'll be reading more source material before I climb up to (or is that descend unto) the criticism.