Friday, January 18, 2013

THE NOVEL WILL NOT STOP DYING


Daniel Mendalsohn, smart critic that he is, must have had a bad dream about the future of creative writing and decided that those scummy novelists have been living on the good graces of a gullibe reading public and a gaggle of conspiring critics for too long. Plugging his new collection of essays 'Waiting for the Barbarians during an interview in Lambda Literature , the oracular Mendalsohn feels the zeitgeist closing on him too closly and lets loose with some end-days declarations,among them that the novel is deceased.Hmmm...

I've been reading learned essays declaring the end of the novels for almost five decades and we've yet to see authors stop writing them or an audience stop reading them. That, in addition to the embarrassment of younger novelists who continue to write compelling prose narratives in subtle and innovative ways. This is the spot where those who agree with me can insert the last names of their current author preferences. I read this essay with a profound sense of deja vu and figured out that the scribe is himself recycling a set of assumptions--fundamentally, that the progress of literature has come to to the fabled "end" where every story telling device and structure is exhausted--that are put forward from time to time less to clear ground for new thinking on what literary art should than to merely start a ruckus.

Theater, radio, movies, painting, broadcast television and print books have been declared either dead or on barely working life support for years, yet all these forms are thriving. My question is when will editors see these essays as the canards they are and instead demand criticisms that is more interested in the style and intricate elements of a novelist's work instead of trying to cram him or her into a premature grave and throwing dirt on them. It's time, I think, that we throw the dirt back at them.