John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men is one of the most heralded, widely read and referenced books of all time. Not to spoil it for you, but it involves a mentally retarded character who accidentally commits a crime. So fine, the state of Texas referenced it in regards to the case of Marvin Wilson, who allegedly murdered a police informant back in 1992. The U.S government has banned the execution of mentally disabled prisoners. What’s the problem here?
Is this just a thing that the British do? Make incredibly dismissive, overarching generalizations about writing to piss off a certain segment of the literary population? (I have no idea why.To increase hits on their website? Because someone’s got to argue about writing, and since there are apparently only 20 literary arguments under the sun to go along with the 20 plots, they have to keep trying new variations on them?)
About a month ago, it was childless women writers. Now, Robert McCrum, himself no spring chicken, says that literary masterpieces are best accomplished by those under 40. He grants a few “exceptions” here and there—Dostevsky, for one, but otherwise just continues to make a blanket statement: that old age is bad for a writing career.
I’ve only read one short story and about 40 pages of Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace.Yes, I know, I need to fix this. I certainly liked what I read: the short story, Little Expressionless Animals, is one of my all-time favorites, and Wallace’s hyperverbal, quick-witted style is one to which I aspire. I also, perhaps, should read more Bret Easton Ellis. I simultaneously crave the voice of and am appalled by American Psycho. I don’t know how to take Ellis, or his assertions that what he writes isn’t autobiographical (and you sort of hope it isn’t). But whatever, I like his writing, and I’ve got lots of time to read both him and Wallace.
If you’re reading this right now, you’re probably affected by books and language. You hold what great authors say in high esteem. You might even have a secret file on your computer with thousands of paragraphs pretending to be a novel. What world have you stepped into, you with your love of literature?
It’s not a relaxing one. Those who are good with words are often good at using them to their downfall, and as a writer, you are a public corpse to be dissected, your work used and misused against your will, your very attributes questioned. It’s scandalous: it’s fascinating.
What follows is one perhaps-not-as well-read-as-she-should-be-writer’s reactions to what’s lighting up the literary spheres. I’ll dissect the stories out there, find precedents for what’s happening now, and offer my two cents. I like to see all sides of an issue, so I may not always have the best or most fervent arguments. But at least you’ll know what’s out there and what I think about it. And I’d love to hear what you think, too. One day, we may all be famous enough to start our own literary controversies, but in the meantime, everybody can be a critic, ethicist, or grammarian about the subject we love best: literature.