Thursday, January 14, 2021

Tracking the decline …

… A novel ending - The Spectator - news, politics, life & arts. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

One thinks of Cervantes’s Don Quixote, Fielding’s Tom Jones, Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, Stendhal’s Rouge et Noirand Tolstoy’s War and Peace; of Melville’s Moby-Dick, Twain’s Huckleberry Finn, Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises; of Faulkner’s Absalom, Absalom! Of these, among the most easily recognizable and celebrated titles in the history of western literature, not one exhibits a trace of the solipsism, self-referentiality, self-identity and the narrow, intolerant and vicious puppy ideology that are among the more disgusting features of the novel in the 21st century. Instead their concern is with the natural world and the creatures that inhabit it; with human society at every level and including every type of human personality; with history, war and peace; with ennobling adventure and thrilling experience; with high passions and great loves; with good versus evil; with life and death; ultimately, with the relationship between mankind and the Divine. 


  1. Don Quixote was published in 1612, Absalom, Absalom in 1936, a span of 325 years. That the first twenty years of the 21st Century have not produced such a harvest is hardly surprising. Also, one forgets what load of trash came out in every decade of the 17th through 20th Century. (Well, I remember some of the 20th Century's.)

    As for self-referential, I can point to self-referential passages in Don Quixote and The Red and the Black and could make a case for some in Tom Jones. And I would be interested to hear how The Red and the Black engages with the relationship between mankind and the Divine: Stendhal might have regarded this, as he said of Bossuet, as "serious tosh".

    1. Self-referential is one thing. Solipsism is another. There are good novelists around. Larry Watson comes to mind. So does the late Oliver Lange. And I could go on.