Prufrock's Page

Friday, May 12, 2006

Crying Wolfe

"For the novel now, it's all downhill. It's heading downhill very fast because the writers today almost always come out of Master of Fine Arts programs such as the famous ones at Iowa and Stanford. These programs are like standing water. Mosquitoes breed in standing water. It has become unfashionable to put your hands in the social muck of a society and deal with all these vulgar motivations such as social status or greed or anything of this sort.

"The psychological novel, which is mainly the novel of yourself at home, is what is taught. Your own experience is the only valid experience that you can draw from."

That's former New Journalist Tom Wolfe, in a recent interview. Sir Vidia was unavailable for comment. (Link courtesy the always-interesting Literary Saloon.)

You have to give the man credit for consistency. White suit apart, he's been saying the same thing for a long time, most notably in his notorious 1989 Harper's essay, 'Stalking The Billion-Footed Beast', where he muttered that writers need a fuller engagement with their subjects, and that journalistic fact-finding and social realism a la Dickens was the way forward.

Well, at least one person seems to be listening: Gary Shteyngart, author of the much-praised Absurdistan, who says: "There's quite a lot of nonfiction or thinly disguised fiction in [Absurdistan]. It's like what V.S. Naipaul said about how relevant can fiction really be, but we can't leave it all to the blogs, as good as some of them are. In the cultural sense, the writer really needs to be part of the world. I can tell you, when I ...stayed at a Hyatt and saw hookers chasing Halliburton executives down the hall, I knew I had to write about it."


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