Peter Coviello and Ivan Kreilkamp - "Vineland Reread" and "A Visit from the Goon Squad Reread" - Nicholas Dames and Jenny Davidson

Monday, January 25, 2021 - 7:00pm - 8:00pm
Event Presenter/Author: 
Peter Coviello and Ivan Kreilkamp

Peter Coviello, author of Vineland Reread, and Ivan Kreilkamp, author of A Visit from the Goon Squad Reread, the first two books in the new Rereadings series from Columbia University Press, will be in conversation with series editors Nicholas Dames and Jenny Davidson at this virtual launch event. Columbia University Press senior editor Philip Leventhal will introduce the event.

Presented in partnership with Public Books and the Department of English and Comparative Literature at Columbia University

Virtual event

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About Vineland Reread: Vineland is hardly anyone’s favorite Thomas Pynchon novel. Marking Pynchon’s return after vanishing for nearly two decades following his epic Gravity’s Rainbow, it was initially regarded as slight, a middling curiosity. However, for Peter Coviello, the oft-overlooked Vineland opens up new ways of thinking about Pynchon’s writing and about how we read and how we live in the rough currents of history. Beginning with his early besotted encounters with Vineland, Coviello reads Pynchon’s offbeat novel of sixties insurgents stranded in the Reaganite summer of 1984 as a delirious stoner comedy that is simultaneously a work of heartsick fury and political grief: a portrait of the hard afterlives of failed revolution in a period of stifling reaction. Coviello argues that Vineland is among the most abundant and far-sighted of late-century American excursions into novelistic possibility. Departing from visions of Pynchon as the arch-postmodernist, erudite and obscure, he discloses an author far more companionable and humane. In Pynchon’s harmonizing of joyousness and outrage, comedy and sorrow, Coviello finds a model for thinking through our catastrophic present.

About Peter Coviello: Peter Coviello is professor of English at the University of Illinois at Chicago. His most recent books include Long Players: A Love Story in Eighteen Songs (Penguin, 2018) and Make Yourselves Gods: Mormons and the Unfinished Business of American Secularism (University of Chicago Press, 2019).

About A Visit from the Goon Squad Reread: Jennifer Egan described her Pulitzer Prize–winning novel A Visit from the Goon Squad as a combination of Proust and The Sopranos. In rereading the book, Ivan Kreilkamp takes Egan up on her comparison, showing how it blends a concern with the status of the novel in the twenty-first century with an elegiac meditation on how we experience the passage of time. Kreilkamp, a former music critic, examines how Egan’s characters turn to rock and especially punk in search of community and meaning. He considers what the novel’s portrayal of music says about the role of art in contemporary culture as digitization makes older technologies obsolete. Combining personal and critical reflection, he reveals how A Visit from the Goon Squad articulates and responds to the sense of loss many feel as cherished physical objects are replaced with immaterial data. For Kreilkamp, Egan’s novel compellingly combines the psychological realism of the nineteenth-century novel with more recent and transient forms such as the celebrity magazine profile or a PowerPoint presentation to provide a self-reflective diagnosis of the decay and endurance of literature. Arranged like Egan’s novel into A and B sides, this book highlights not only how A Visit from the Goon Squad speaks to our mass-media and digital present but also its page-turning pleasure.

About Ivan Kreilkamp: Ivan Kreilkamp is professor of English at Indiana University. His books include Minor Creatures: Persons, Animals, and the Victorian Novel (University of Chicago Press, 2018), and he is coeditor of Victorian Studies. He has published pop-music criticism in the Village Voice, Spin, Rolling Stone, and elsewhere.

About Nicholas Dames: Nicholas Dames is a professor of English and comparative literature at Columbia University. He is the author of two books on 19th-century British fiction and criticism on recent fiction in the Atlantic, the New Yorker, n+1, and elsewhere. He is currently coeditor in chief of Public Books.

About Jenny Davidson: Jenny Davidson is professor of English and comparative literature at Columbia University. Recent projects include an edition of an unpublished novel from the 1950s, The Duchess of Angus (Trinity University Press, 2020), and a regular interview column at the Rambling about new books in 18th-century studies broadly conceived, Five Questions with Jenny Davidson.

Event Location: 
Virtual