Do Not Kill Yourself Because John Irving Said
In an interview for "Big Think" this week, John Irving admits that there's no way his first novel -- "Setting Free the Bears" -- would sell these days and claims that if he were a 27-year-old novelist trying to get his first book published now, he'd seriously consider suicide.

As a 27-year-old writer trying to get his first novel published, I'd much rather kill John Irving. And Kundera, and Mailer, and Roth, and Updike, and Pynchon, and Wolfe...

There is plenty of hope for "literary fiction." For instance, despite their cloddishness, genre fiction writers are so beloved because they like to experiment. They take risks. They seem to ENJOY writing and don't just view it as the most important duty of their caste. Often, they are female.

Luckily, the 27-year-old fiction writers of my generation are not all privileged, Ivy-League-educated, tentative, moody, New England assholes (not ALL of them anyway) or fiction would be in big trouble.

A hostile and difficult climate for fiction will only force new novelists to craft tighter prose and tell more interesting stories. We must get back to basics and reject the self-indulgent wallowing of the preceding generation, those monumental egos who turned fiction into a place to bask like barking seals on rocks of Self and who forgot that the pleasure of narrative is to extend beyond the possible into the imaginary. Comic book writers took up the slack for awhile, but it is time for fiction writers to roll up their sleeves and get dirty again. To titillate, amuse, satisfy, provoke, soothe, and outrage! To make worlds! To seduce with words instead of cataloging the glories of past seductions...

Irving is the way backward. Murakami is the way forward.

A harsh and demanding environment for fiction can only be corrective against its current bloated indulgences. The best stories always come out of the wasteland.

The crumbling edifice of modern publishing is the greatest opportunity for fiction writers since the dawn of the printing press. Our stories are no longer being collated and refereed by a tight-fisted group of white, monied, upper-class intellectuals. "Brigands, all of them," said Dickens.

Find your audience. Tell them whatever the fuck you want.

Posted by miracle on Fri, 06 Nov 2009 18:54:14 -0500 -- permanent link

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