Joyce Carol Oates, who is receiving, tonight at the Beverly Hills Hotel, the PEN USA Lifetime Achievement Award, is a famously prolific and famously dark fiction writer. Her new collection of stories, Black Dahlia & White Roses, is populated by a lot of bad parents, some mediocre spouses, and a few prisoners in maximum security prisons.
James Ellroy's new novella Shakedown, published electronically by Byliner, features Fred Otash, the love-to-hate character from LA Confidential. Ellroy is perhaps the quintessential Los Angeles novelist, and this short piece, his entry into electronic publishing, is full of that mixing of the real (James Dean, Sal Mineo) and the fictional that we find in his other books – including a fictional James Ellroy.
Sianne Ngai, an interesting literary critic now at Stanford University, says, in Our Aesthetic Categories, that our new critical categories are Zany, Cute, and Interesting (rather than the Sublime and the Beautiful, for instance). She thinks this is related to the way we consume culture — on the Internet, on TV — but also that it has deep roots in 20th-century avant-garde and other artistic movements.