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Entries in Novels (1)

Wednesday
May072014

Calling out the gobshites 

There was a beautifully written, if barely readable diatribe on the DEATH OF THE NOVEL in The Guardian last week, penned by (insert frustrated novelist name here).* This particular yarn eulogizing “the serious literary novel” was an edited, 4,490-word version of a lecture given at Oxford where I’m guessing many of those in attendance are just now waking up from their tedium-induced comas.

So to spare you the hazard to your health, here’s a brief summary: “The novel is dead because no one is reading my books.”

The problem isn’t this writer’s work (which I’m sure is deserving of its literary acclaim), or the state of the book-buying masses. The problem is this gentleman’s complete, Justin Bieber-like lack of self-awareness. Because this poor fellow, like most serious literary writers, are what I call performance writers—they’re actually writing to impress other writers, or critics, who are often authors themselves (or stillborn writers). They get so caught up in linguistic navel-gazing, this literary jujitsu, and the fawning self-satisfaction that comes from writing Bob’s rapacity knew no satiety (when writing Bob was hungry would suffice), that they forget most readers also want a compelling story.

But they don’t see it. And when no one reads their novels they hurl stones at book buyers, declaring them to be mouth-breathing, knuckle-dragging, troglodytes.

Now please, please, pu-leeeze don’t get me wrong. I love—no, I adore, lush, complex prose. But I’m weary of these kinds of rants from dense literary stylists whose books go down like aspirin without water and they can’t understand why consumers don’t gobble them up like Skittles. Or worse, they think the world is upside-down for not appreciating the struggle of trying to ingest their bitter pills.

This is as absurd as Nicholas Sparks writing an emotional editorial in US Magazine declaring THE NOVEL IS DEAD because he’s never been nominated for a Pulitzer.

If you’re a writer of commercial fiction you’ll probably never win the Nobel Prize. And if you’re a hard-core, literary writer—face it—odds are, you’re going to be paid in posterity points instead of pounds. Deal accordingly.

Self-awareness, kids. It’s free and goes a long way.

*I’m not going to name him because literary novelists crying this particular kind of wolf have become so common that honestly, they all look and sound alike to me.**

**Post-racial (ha) observation. Why is it always a white guy saying the novel is dead?