Saturday, December 31, 2005

Wounds of the negative: litblogging wishes for 2006

So, the final post of the year. Time for futile, litblog-related wishes inspired by browsing the new Metaxu Cafe coalesence.

First, when we're discussing contemporary fiction can we drop the word 'experimental'? As I’m keen to provide examples, see its use in yesterday's post at The World of Paul Jessup. ‘Experimental fiction’ is a pleonasm. A writer chooses or finds the most appropriate way to write a work of fiction. This is the necessary experiment. If it works, it works. If it doesn't, well, then you can refer to 'literary snobs'.

But of course, what does 'work' mean? It depends what you need from fiction. If you want to talk loudly in bars about innovation and postmodernism, I suppose the diarrheic imaginations of professional novelists is for you.

Second, which is closely related to the first: define your terms! For example, take the word 'accessible'. Paul Jessup, again, wishes 'experimental' writers were more accessible and wrote 'in order to please a literary audience'. Yet how can a writer know if he or she is accessible and/or pleasing to a reader? How can the reader know if the author is allowing them access or deliberately excluding them? Answering either with certainty reflects only the assumptions and prejudices of the reader or writer.

Third, name names. In a ventriloquised rant (i.e. no individual can hold these views without merging with the herd of independent minds), Sand Storm says
It seems like some reviewers have become so enamored of abstraction, indirect payoff ... and language gymnastics that the simple pleasure of observing an interesting set of characters moving through a plot (read: storytelling!) is just plain looked down upon.
And goes on in the very same entry:
The funny thing is that some of the very same critics who decry the state of modern literature, and who complain that the young folks aren't reading anymore, would somehow 'fix' the situation by recommending the literary equivalent of a tablespoon of cod liver oil - maybe a little 'difficult' but ‘good for you’.
Who are these critics? It would be useful to compare and contrast. But perhaps they're unnamed as they are shame-engendered figments of the imagination.

And, by the way, plot does not equal storytelling. Plots are for gardeners.

Fourth, stop asking rhetorical questions. Sand Storm again: What's wrong with a good story?

Better ask instead, what's right with a good story? As soon as you pursue a question (i.e. rather than just asking it), literature begins. No wonder some people have a problem with it. What do you want, sedation or a cure?*

Fifth, let’s all conspire not to mention - let alone read - the latest fashionable novel. Read what you have to read. Write what you have to write. Forget the rest.

In connection with this, I have to admit that I haven't read Ian McEwan’s Saturday, or The Time-Traveller’s Wife or anything by David Mitchell or A People's Act of Love or White Teeth or Thirty Days in the Samarkand Desert with the Duchess of Kent. And I don’t intend to, inasmuch as indifference is intentional. This might be due to snobbery, just as the fact that you haven't read Gert Hofmann's Lichtenberg and the Little Flower Girl might be due to an a priori rejection because you haven't even heard of it. Talk about a narrow mind!

*Answer: both!

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