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Your mission, if you choose to accept it

28 June 2010

Darn it. I really want to write about my opinion of modern “literature”. But my time is limited these days. So I’m going to go about this piecemeal, rather than try to find the time to put something long and heartfelt together in one go.

The first step is some homework for you. Find a comfortable chair, get yourself your favorite drink, and read this piece. It’s long; the author uses big words — but don’t worry, he has as much scorn for them as you do.

I think this piece is genius, and honest, and it made me feel better for the choices I make when I pick a book to read. Join me in this multi-post road on modern literature, won’t you?

A Reader’s Manifesto
By B. R. Myers
First published in the Atlantic Monthly in July 2001

Nothing gives me the feeling of having been born several decades too late quite like the modern “literary” best seller. Give me a time-tested masterpiece or what critics patronizingly call a fun read—Sister Carrie or just plain Carrie. Give me anything, in fact, as long as it doesn’t have a recent prize jury’s seal of approval on the front and a clutch of precious raves on the back. In the bookstore I’ll sometimes sample what all the fuss is about, but one glance at the affected prose—”furious dabs of tulips stuttering,” say, or “in the dark before the day yet was”—and I’m hightailing it to the friendly black spines of the Penguin Classics.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. KathyR permalink
    8 July 2010 9:53 pm

    Ok, well, Proulx and DeLillo. Yeah. You won’t get much argument from me there.

    But Cormac McCarthy is a weird damn genius. And All the Pretty Horses is by far his most accessible book. I mean, come on, if you pretend not to “get” All the Pretty Horses, you aren’t really trying. You’re just carping to make a point.

    Also a bit mystified by the reference to Charles Frazier under the “muscular fiction” heading. At the time this article was written, he only had the one book out, right? Cold Mountain? Which I thoroughly enjoyed and which, to me, seemed downright sensitive and feminine for a good half or more of the book. The whole point is that our hero has no taste for war and risks his life returning home to the woman he loves who we meet cowering in the bushes outside her house, living on jam and the kindness of stranges. Some bad violent shit happens, but I don’t think anybody (other than this Myers person) thinks its “muscular” or Melvillian. Really?

    And, dude, Toni Morrison is not a bad writer. Alice Waters (The Color Purple, etc.) is a bad writer. Toni Morrison appears to think she’s the female African American Faulkner. Which, I think, she actually totally pulls off. Totally. I mean it. Read “As I Lay Dying” and then read “Beloved” or “Song of Solomon.”

    I was a political science major. I have no literary credentials.

  2. isabelita permalink
    9 July 2010 8:08 pm

    I despised that essay. Meyers, in my opinion, is an old fuddy duddy.

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