Tuesday, January 03, 2012

Great Novelists

One wonders if great novelists of the past like Tolstoy, Zola, Dostoevsky would ever be published were they around today, given their unshakeable independence and iconoclastic personalities. These great men bowed to nobody. Today's literary and publishing worlds require strict conformity, jumping through hoops in obedience every step of the way, from the academy through dealing with editors and agents. The writer-- the artist; the creator-- is treated like an underling, required to come meekly hat-in-hand, with subservient mien-- the supplicant-- and say in a pleading voice, "Please publish me."

Ernest Hemingway for one, arguably America's last great literary personality, wasn't published that way. He was part of the underground lit scene of his day, publishing fiction in small publications, then allowing his friend Robert McAlmon to publish the first version of in our time. Big publishers then came to him, became the supplicants. 

Why do we see from those who are supposed to be our great novelists, Chad Harbach or Jonathan Franzen, the opposite of a larger-than-life personality? These two men anyway represent a kind of anti-charisma with meek personas generating no recognizable energy, not a speck, as if their personalities were long past broken on the wheel.

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