Wednesday, 20 June 2012

A Partial Defence of the “Difficult” Novel

—The modern bestseller is a liar. The bestseller is the best at selling. It has no other function but to sell.

—There are exceptions to this, but exceptions are part of the problem.

—Legions of readers look at experimental fiction and shrug. Legions of readers dismiss “difficult” fiction as elitist when mainstream stories can deliver an easily navigable narrative with intelligent character and an emotional payoff. They won’t go within a whiff of the untested.

—So why should readers of “difficult” fiction stoop to defend mainstream novels? Why should they take each bestseller as it comes and analyse its merits as literature, when the mainstream reader will go nowhere near the latest William H. Gass and analyse its merits? No dice.

—Where are all the updates from Goodreads users who had to read the latest Micheline Aharonian Marcom from Coffee House Press to see if it matches up to Game of Thrones for sheer narrative bounce? Nowhere on my wall. If you value daring and original fiction there’s no excuse for going within for four-mile whiff of the literary zeitgeist. Fuck it with a stick.

—For every two million people reading the same book an incalculable number of brilliant works remain unpublished. The ones that do get published don’t get talked about or read. Stop following the herd. Stop reading sentences that could be written by a drunk tramp with cramp. We get the books we deserve. The solution rests with the reader.

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