Prufrock's Page

Monday, July 03, 2006

Where Are Our Hemingways, Our Faulkners?

Who are today's leading young novelists, asks Lev Grossman in the venerable Time magazine. After rounding up the usual suspects -- from Safran Foer to Lethem to Franzen to Foster Wallace, with a tip of the hat to those across the Atlantic such as David Mitchell -- he concludes that today's novel is shorter, funnier and more tightly plotted. And yet:

"...there's still no writer under 40 who makes you want to stand up in a crowded theater and shout, That right there is the voice of this generation, that is the yearning and the rage of the contemporary...Every once in a while a novel comes along that makes everything else feel dated, that feels as current as tomorrow's e-mail, that gives readers the story of their own secret ineffable desperation with such immediacy that it induces spontaneous mass recognition as the Voice. Every once in a while--but not lately."

On reflection, it looks like it's the same old 'Great American Novel' debate in a different guise.

And here's an instruction manual on how to write it: make sure to include migration, individualism, optimism, religion, informality and expansiveness.


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