Hal Duncan on Pretentiousness

Jeff VanderMeer • April 29th, 2008 @ 11:07 am • Culture

This is a great post that I won’t even try to summarize. Here’s a short excerpt, though. (And the post that got it all started.)

And in terms of motivation (a), where such a spurious assumption is made, why should we not turn it around and question the antagonistic purposes of the questioner, whether the accusation is driven by objective evaluation or subjective prejudice? From an opposing perspective any accusation of pretentiousness can be seen as an entirely baseless slur on a writer, and one which seeks to turn the level of artistic ambition of a work into a marker of its inverse — a lack of artistic ambition. When an allegation treats the very ambitiousness of the work itself as evidence not of a writer’s ambition for that work but rather as evidence of their personal ambitions — their shallow desire for attention — that allegation can be disregarded as conspiracy theory rather than valid critique.

6 Responses to “Hal Duncan on Pretentiousness”

  1. John Coulthart says:

    Your great post link there is to your WP login page.

  2. Jeff VanderMeer says:


  3. John Coulthart says:

    And I think you may have linked to the wrong post on Ofblog. Did you miss your coffee this morning, Jeff? ;)

  4. Jeff VanderMeer says:

    Yep–I guess I must’ve. Thanks. Fixed.

  5. Larry says:

    Seems like there’s a few discussions about this taking place on my blog and on Hal’s over definitions and applications. At least we’re not arguing about whether or not one’s use of Orcs to maim rather than to rape would constitute an “inversion” of the genre…

  6. Larry says:

    There is a whole boatload of irony to be found in some of the responses here to Duncan’s post.

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