Saturday, May 2, 2009

The Problem with Li-tra-cha

Walter Benn Michaels claims so-called "literary writers" need to make their work more about class issues and the social order of contemporary life. Michaels says they should follow the lead of David Simon, who examined such issues in the HBO show The Wire. (That's really something when a literature professor says novelists should follow the example of television writers. Particularly television writers in "crime genre." In publishing circles, many consider "literary" fiction different and somehow better than "genre" fiction. Plus, at one time, television was considered inferior to books, i.e., the "Boob Tube." Am I over killing my point about the irony? Probably. Oh, well.)

I loved The Wire. It was a great show. But I'm not sure that means we all have to emulate it. There are many types of great books. Some of them focus on class issues and contemporary social order--some of them don't. Some of them are overtly political--some of them aren't. And the ones that deal with personal or timeless issues aren't necessarily self-indulgent or boring. Besides, people who write on class issues and society are fully capable of doing so in a self-indulgent and boring way. (Read any Ayn Rand lately?)

Maybe what we're really talking about here is writing a good story. Whether it's on politics, social order, personal problems, economics or whatever. Literary novels (whatever that term means) are most memorable when they tell a good story. Regardless of topic or theme, good story rules. That's why we read books.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Pageviews Last 30 Days