The significance of The Idiot, as of Batuman’s writing in general, is not literary so much as literary-theoretical: it throws these issues into sharp relief by imposing upon the reader a paralytic attentiveness antithetical to narrative and development, let alone drama. It is an ideological novel composed under the assumption that reading and writing, in and of themselves, might substitute for x. Despite her towering disdain for program fiction, Batuman appears to have reiterated its central principle on her own initiative. This accounts for why the difference between The Idiot and the median MFA novel feels like one of degree, not kind: though Batuman is immeasurably more amusing in tone and more cosmopolitan in setting, the same parochial suspicion of belief systems strong enough to grapple with America’s intrinsic egoism lingers over both.Great novels are about life, not writing qua writing, not ideology, not programs. The great novelists did not have degrees.
Wednesday, June 20, 2018
… Useful Idiots | The Point Magazine. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)