Sunday, January 14, 2007

Well, this seems problematic ...

... Rod Liddle wonders, Has fiction lost its power? (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

This kind of bracingly contrarian:
I realised all this the other day when, finally, exasperated, I threw aside my copy of John Updike’s latest novel, Terrorist, and decided instead to watch Deal or No Deal on Channel 4. I had read just 64 pages, and it had been a struggle to get that far. Not because of its “difficulty”, but because of its bovine stupidity, its desperation to explore a burning issue at the expense of its hopeless, one-dimensional characters. Believe me — and please excuse the language — Terrorist is a f***ing awful book. I can think of no better description for it. And it dawned on me, as Noel Edmonds asked some halfwit which box he wanted to open, that it wasn’t just Updike — I hadn’t actually finished a novel, any novel, for some considerable time. I couldn’t even remember the name of the last new novel I’d finished. Somehow, fiction had lost its power to enthral or inform.

Bu then there's this: ... it was primarily Updike, Henry Miller, Saul Bellow, Philip Roth, Upton Sinclair — along with the lesser lights of Burroughs and Kerouac and Bukowski — who educated me in what it must be like to be an American, to think like an American. Far more so than those beautiful novels of, effectively, imaginative reportage by Sinclair Lewis, Jack London and John Steinbeck.
Well, I am an American and while I think Henry Miller and Bellow give you a sense of what it means to be an American, so do Jack London and John Steinbeck, much more so, I think, than Updike or Roth and certainly Upton Sinclair. (Kerouac and Bukowski give you something of it, too, but from an acute angle. )

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