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Thursday, February 12, 2015

The Funny State of Literature

The vapidity of winter probably is a good metaphor for what has happened to literature in the year 2015. It is cold out. Zero. The wind whips against the windows and nothing really moves. As I read Richard Fords Let Me Be Frank With You it is clear what has happened to serious writing in this early part of the twenty first century. It has gone the way the of the LP and the CD. It is simply not relevant to a large segment of the population.

Harper Lee is bringing out a rejected manuscript. Why would an old woman do that who has a secure place in literary history? But of course content is king and so the more the better. Amazing this modality should nibble at the stalwart of classic lit but there you have it. We don't know if she wanted it out there or someone else but it doesn't really matter. What matters is there has been a watershed and there is no going back.

We are writers brought up on filmic imagery. Our scenes are much more relevant to a Parenthood than a reader of E. M. Foresters A Passage to India. It happened to the music industry. The same juggernaut that has pumped out elevator vocalists from American Idol now pumps it out from Dystopian set pieces like Divergent or randy Army manuals like Fifty Shades of Gray.  It isn't so much that any of this is so bad its just that it is not so good.

Then you read Richard Ford and you remember again that literature was never about that. It was about cracking the existential moment. The wonder of being alive in the year 2015. And it is still there but people would have you believe it is not. There is much more money to be made in pulp than art. But like the winter that howls even now. There is that suspicion we are mortal.  And the great consolation is this.

Literature will live on despite our best intentions.

The Pitcher...Library Guild Selection


Books by William Hazelgrove