Saturday, November 20, 2010

Where Are the Great New Writers?

Where are new talents bursting on the scene to revolutionize the art? This is the most stagnant period in American literary history, in part because writers have lost any sense of real creativity, are content instead to copy the accepted models, trying to perfect what’s already been done. There’s a stagnant mental attitude which oversees and pervades the entire system of literature. This may be due to where America is right now as a civilization, a nation of bureaucracies and institutions, where competent mediocrity is celebrated, has been institutionalized and turned into high value.

The system’s best, like Jonathan Franzen, are skilled mechanics. Even if one accepts the dubious proposition that David Foster Wallace was a “genius” writer—when was that? When did he first gain strong notice? Twenty years ago? He was a follower, maybe a culmination, of academic trends. He led to more paint-by-the-numbers imitators. The art wasn’t turned on its head. There was no Michael Vick breathtaking shock-the-world breakthrough. DFW signalled the end of a trend, not the nascent beginning of one.

Today’s writers are content to write and exist within comfortable boxes. That’s the problem.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I must compliment you on your blog. How refreshing, to find a truly literary personality on the web. Finally. I mourn Underground Literary Alliance, though all I know of it is from the Wikipedia article. How mind-numbingly sad that such a needed cultural utility should fizzle—especially now, when the culture is at such a low ebb, so in-need of a healthy dose of in-your-face news of the other half; the forgotten men and women who have been downsized, bought-out, replaced, etc. Your words are eloquent, yet at once genuine. Keep it up. If we do nothing to save American Literature from itself, it will wither and die as an organ of Democracy. All people like us have to fear, really, is our own lack of courage. –R.P. McMurphy