Monday, January 21, 2008

Books with dragons on the covers

Clive Thompson thinks literary fiction has dropped the ball:
If you want to read books that tackle profound philosophical questions, then the best — and perhaps only — place to turn these days is sci-fi. Science fiction is the last great literature of ideas. . . . I studied literature in college, and throughout my twenties I voraciously read contemporary fiction. Then, eight or nine years ago, I found myself getting — well — bored.

Why? I think it's because I was reading novel after novel about the real world. And there are, at the risk of sounding superweird, only so many ways to describe reality. After I'd read my 189th novel about someone living in a city, working in a basically realistic job and having a realistic relationship and a realistically fraught family, I was like, "OK. Cool. I see how today's world works." I also started to feel like I'd been reading the same book over and over again.
I'd feel differently about much lit fic if it made an effort to explore the experiences of individuals outside the bourgeoisie. If we agree, for the sake of argument, that there are a finite number of ways to describe reality, surely there are even fewer ways to describe upper-middle-class white people living in New York, a suburb thereof, or a small university town.

UPDATE: Phoebe's in a tough spot: writing what you know sucks when what you know already saturates the market.
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