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Why the novel has turned to stone [or has it?]

April 14, 2011


Over on a site we’ve never heard of called Bookfox, they’re saying comtemporary fiction is still alive and swinging, even in postmodern form.

Or whatever comes after postmodern.

If you’re too lazy to follow the link, here’s a summary:

‘The novel is still interesting. Postmodern literature of lists and ‘did you know this about this?’ and referencing of wikipedia articles and using those articles as a character in a work of fiction. And etc. This still tells us about human beings.’

So all those books written by Foer et al are not fake.

Or are they?

The article runs into The Art of the Novel by that old non-czech Czech Kundera and says, ‘yes, novels should experiment, and the method of delivery, even if it is a series of lists copy/pasted from wikipedia, reflects an existence in the way that person chooses to exist.’

We half-agree.


If you want to show the shitness of a character’s existence then just have them checking up useless info on wikipedia every night. It might not be much of a story, but there’s empathy there surely.

Or if you wanna show your character missing how life was when they were a kid, why not have  a story about them watching old theme tunes of their favourite cartoons on youtube. Like Count Duckula, for example. Or even better…the raccoons.

This is fine.

The problem is the voice of contemporary authors. They’re all the fucking same. Confident, random, cynical. That’s the reason why most of these postmodern books are no good, why it feels like there’s no human being at the wheel. Because it’s on repeat. And how many more times can Palahniuk tell us about obscure things we think can’t possibly be true? [Krist, we feel sorry for that guy. He really is spent and there’s just no direction left for him to go. Unless he skips genre to fantasy or sci-fi? Could work, if he keeps a leash on second person. If he pretends he’s someone else for a while…or two other people, three even…and then writes from that position.]

But who are we to say this? Who is anyone to say it? That’s another problem. How do you call something shit when you’re not at their level?

Fuck it. I wonder who the next Robocop will be…

5 Comments leave one →
  1. SpocksBrain permalink
    April 14, 2011 4:12 pm

    You’re right, the novel has turned to stone, and it’s not down to the form or style, it’s down to writers with a complete lack of anything to say for themselves. I have no problem with novels that are lists or diaries or scraps and notes, but most of the time there’s just nothing behind any of it. The authors give nothing of themselves. The only exception to this that i can think of would be David Foster Wallace, who put all his anxieties into his work, like the sweating and height issues etc. No one else does this, not that i can tell anyway.

    Next Robocop? Karl Urban.

    • April 14, 2011 4:28 pm

      We half agree with Wallace. He did make his characters take lots of showers, but a lot of his writing was just fluff. Well written fluff, but it made all the better stuff underneath harder to find. Also, he tended to try too hard for MEANING in pretty sentences a bit too often. Even the first paragraph of Pale King is like this. Pretty dull too. But others probably think different.

      Karl Urban will not be the new Robocop, for the reason Gaimanverse says below. Though they are casting Ryan Reynolds in a lot of superhero stuff so maybe it wouldn’t be complete overkill.

  2. Gaimanverse permalink
    April 14, 2011 4:16 pm

    Maybe literary stuff is no good, and we need to look at other genres to get the good stuff? Example, Japanese sci-fi. Stuff like ‘All you need is Kill’ and the guy who wrote ‘Zoo’ (can’t remember his name).

    Spocksbrain – Karl Urban is Judge Dredd, don’t think he can be Robocop too. My bet is: Bradley Cooper, even though I think he’d be terrible. It just seems like he’s the way casting is going at the mo…

    • April 14, 2011 4:30 pm

      Yes, sci-fi has always been the better genre for ideas. Just look at the picture of the guy on the right of this post and you’ll see we mean it. [We mean the picture of Harlan Ellison, not Amanda Hocking]

      Bradley Cooper will be out of the picture within the next 4 years. He will make a living from straight to DVD stuff though, just like Christian Slater, Micheal Biehn etc.

  3. Deadwood permalink
    April 14, 2011 4:21 pm

    Am I the only one who’s happy with what we’ve got right now? I mean, Foer can be a little pretentious [like that book with the nine year old kid narrating, and the flicker drawing at the end…what the hell does Foer know about 9 year olds?], but he’s a good writer, isn’t he? And away from him, you’ve still got a lot of big hitters. Ellis. Auster. Hank Moody! I think it’s a little ignorant to say they don’t have human beings in their stories. Perhaps they’re just not human beings you recognise, but still exist in the authors’ worlds.

    As for Robocop…if I were trying to be absurd, I’d say Robin Williams. If I’m serious, I’d say Bill Pullman.

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