Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Provocative statements

The statement I would like to gently disagree with is that authors simply aren't up to the caliber they once were, and that no writing in our generation will be considered "classic literature". Take a look at this passage from All the Pretty Horses by: Cormac McCarthy and tell me it's not the epitome of beautiful, clear literature:

"They rode out along the fenceline and across the open pasture-land. The leather creaked in the morning cold. They pushed the horses into a lope. The light fell away behind them. They rode out on where they slowed the horses to a walk and the stars swarmed around them out of the blackness. They heard somewhere in that tenantless night a bell that tolled and ceased where no bell was and on the round dais of the earth which alone was dark and no light to it and which carried their figures and bore them up into the swimming stars so that they rode not under but among them and they rode jaunty and circumspect, like young thieves in a glowing orchard, loosely jacketed against the cold and ten thousand worlds for the choosing."

If that's not evidence enough look up Jonathan Safran Foer, Mark Z. Danielewski or Chuck Palahnuik or for some older but still "not quite classic" stuff look up Carson McCullers, John Updike, Joyce Carol Oates, or Alice Walker, or Gabriel Garcia Marquez. 


  1. I'm so glad someone brought up Jonathan Safran Foer. His writing was like a breath of fresh air. I felt so heavy and bogged down with the weight of some of the works taught in school. And yet his style and the simplicity of it just set me in awe. And depending on the version you pick up- the fact that (in some editions) the book is marked and has pictures and 5 blank pages- it just exemplifies Nabokov's statement that "great novels are great fairy tales."

    I can't wait till his next book comes out.

  2. I echo your "gentle disagreement," Rachael. I think there's a lot of beauty and value in modern writing. All of those more modern authors at the end were/are so successful, I think, because they ARE provocative and daring in subject matter, in style, and in message, while writing beautifully and elegantly enough to meet the standards of "literature." (See also Toni Morrison or Jeffrey Eugenides, perhaps...?) Like Nabokov, who presented, beautifully and unapologetically, a pedophile's love story, they shock in style. (THough I hate the idea of sole "shock value" because obviously that's just trying to be novel for the sake of being novel. That's not really valid - hipster lit? - and that completely ignores the storyteller/teacher/enchanter blend that the true author seeks.) Chuck Palahniuk in particular is kind of a cliché, especially for this generation of readers, but he does a really good job of this. His work has literally made me sick at parts, but the ideas put forth (the concepts of beauty and power in Invisible Monsters, for example) lasted longer than the nausea and had a powerful effect on me as a reader and as a human.