Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Is Realism Dead?

The question needs to be asked, as all we see in the literary field from high to low is a retreat from reality. From metafiction and magical realism to hobbits, wizards, zombies, and vampires, writers seem determined to run away from the world as it is. Once, literature confronted, explained, and tried to correct that world.

I have to give props then, to some extent, to Franzen for still writing traditional novels. He also partially escapes the utter mediocrity of most of those plying the narrow realism trade. He stands above them, in that he has a second-rate intelligence, while other writers are third-rate thinkers-- when they're able to think at all. Just my own opinion, of course.


BradyDale said...

I haven't read Franzen.

There is a lot of magical silliness out there, but I think sometimes a little unreality actually helps reality come into sharper focus. It's a way to really underscore something in a satire.

For example, in John Carpenter's THEY LIVE, mass culture is shown to be a means of control by alien overlords. Sure, there are no alien overlords, but it really gets you thinking...
is there something about the culture trying to get folks to stay asleep.

Or, for example, the way Vonnegut used ice-9 to crumble all of society as a way of showing what his characters were really made of at the end.
Eat The Babies! - a webcomic

King Wenclas said...

Yeah, except right now we're not getting a little unreality, but nothing but. I think it's easier to dismiss fantasy, because it's one step removed. Reality distanced.
Unlike, say, Steinbeck's In Dubious Battle or The Grapes of Wrath, which were not easy to dismiss back then. (The former continues to be relevant. I knew some former nonprofit folks who swore by it.) Or a novel I'm currently reading by Malraux which is very strong.
(I hope to make my current novel-in-progress half that intelligent and potent.)
I don't think writers are allowed to write like that anymore. The bigs anyway won't touch that.
But vampires! Bring 'em on.