The Contemporary and the Terrible
I don’t know who J.Robert Lennon is, but he made a lot of my Facebook friends see red last week with a Salon.com article entitled “Most contemporary literary fiction is terrible.” A moderately well-known contemporary lit fiction author who I happen to know was so offended he posted a status asking his friends to post one of their favorite books written in the past 10 years. And I now have to admit something which is a bit awkward for a book-reviewer-come-lately to admit. As deliberately provoking as his article was, I have to admit, I agree with J. Robert Lennon.
I don’t know exactly when it started, and I can’t and I’m not going to name names. OK, fine, I’ll name a few. Life of Pi. God, I hate that book. I think it made a whole generation of people think they could away with nothing happening in a plot as long as they were sufficiently profound. And honestly, what is the likelihood that a devout believer of multiple religions would be trapped on a boat with a tiger? A totally contrived situation. Yes, I know fiction doesn’t have to be realistic. But it has to be believable. Then, I don’t know, it seemed like there were a bunch of white people who authors forced to have marginally terrible lives for the sake of art. Freedom by Jonathan Franzen was a good example of that. If that was the next great American novel, when can I get a visa to Canada? The privilege dripping off that book was obscene, and even better, nothing actually happened.