Tuesday, April 29, 2008

A book to avoid

This fellow represents a huge part of what I despise about modern lit-fic.*

[His] book is also a further unpacking of Mr. Gessen’s personal philosophy on the proper function of the novel: to hold up an honest mirror to society, no matter how frivolous and unserious that society may be. Young people in big cities like New York, Mr. Gessen said: “are willing ... to have the privileges of their class,” Mr. Gessen added, “to go to a good college, and be subsidized in their New York lives by their parents, but maybe not willing to be written about.”

The result, Mr. Gessen said, is that the everyday lives of young urban adults are no longer considered appropriate subjects for ambitious novels.

To the extent that his novel has been criticized for a solipsistic fixation on characters much like himself, Mr. Gessen blamed the Eggersards for fostering this literary bias. “The idea that you should not write about educated people in big cities, that’s a McSweeney’s idea,” he said. “That idea is crazy to me.”

Has there ever been a class more willing to be written about (and then to read about themselves)? Does he seriously contend that the prevailing opinion in literary circles is one should not write solipsistic, realistic narratives about educated urbanites? How does he explain the surfeit of novels by, for, and about pasty New Yorkers with B.A.s and dead-end jobs?

Realism is not necessary in order to depict the human condition and it doesn't take much creativity to write thinly-veiled autobiography. Holding a mirror up to society, for someone with a little imagination, might involve teasing out which aspects of society are most interesting and focusing on a setting in which those features are paramount: You know, what speculative fiction authors do. But they are ghettoized while books about indecisive young urbanites climb the bestseller lists.

This guy is a prat of the first order and I hope his book flops.

* Note: I also find the McSweeney's & Believer crowds intolerable.

(via Belle)
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