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Sunday, October 30, 2011

The Vapidity of Modern Fiction

Why is it I can go read a bad F. Scott Fitzgerald short story from the Saturday Evening Post, one of his uncollected stories, that he himself disparaged and critics overlooked at just mainstream tripe of his day, and that story has more heart, more soul, than the  modern novels of our day. I try and read all the big books out and like many I am excited to launch on a new journey into the literary fiction of our day but after all the spun gold of New Yorker prose, I find something lacking. In short...where's the beef?

The beef would be heart and that does not exist in our modern writers. At least the ones I read and I read a lot of bestsellers. Now I dont' read everyone but there is this qualitative difference between the old writers of fiction and the new ones. The new writers write stories that read like long magazine pieces that don't seem to lower themselves to the soul of pathos or bathos. They may even call it sentimentality. But there is a curious lack of warmth in a lot of these writers that the writers of old seemed to possess.

If you read  something like the Baby Party which is a story of Fitzgerald's about two men who get in a fist fight on a suburban lawn then you might think this is lightweight fare but in fact it is a dead on treatment of the absurdity of bourgeois life but also the devotion to children. It is so alive, so breathing with life that we know these people and feel their pain and sorrow. When I finish a novel of today it is a bit like skating on ice and just about as cold.

So I go back to where is the beef? Is it television and the Internet? Maybe so. But those old writers are softening we need to go back too after our revved up Kindle reading where the emotion flat lines in the long highway of over educated prose and we yearn for those humanist values stripped out of our smart fiction that can be shattered like so much over spun glass.

\My prose bitterly proves the point.

Books by William Hazelgrove