The fact remains that getting people right is not what living is all about anyway. It’s getting them wrong and wrong and then, on careful reconsideration, getting them wrong again. That’s how we know we’re alive: we’re wrong. Maybe the best thing would be to forget being right or wrong about people and just go along for the ride. But if you can do that—well, lucky you.
-Philip Roth, American Pastoral
Imagine, if you will, that all of the art museums of the world—The Louvre, The Met, The MoMA, The Guggenheim—suddenly began installing pieces of contemporary dribble: your son’s 2nd grade finger painting piece; a series of trash cans piled on top of one another; a particularly daring macaroni noodle experiment. Next imagine that all of the people in the world began flocking to these exhibits, and lauding them for their unmatched extravagance and artistic ability. This would be a pretty devastating affair, wouldn’t it? Well this, in essence, is exactly what is happening in the literary world.
Writing truly isn’t what it once was. I mean you look at the individuals—“writers”—who are working today, and you just wonder, what happened to the real writers of the past: the thinkers/philosophers working under the guise of novelists; the storytellers who weaved intricate tales with rich, complex plot and character development; the literary masters who were not only read but imitated and idolized by m(b)illions? By todays standards you don’t have those types of writers. And before all of you jump down my throat with, “Hey, Travis! What about Harry Potter, jerk?” allow me to qualify that: as I said previously, you don’t have people worshiping individual writers; you have people worshiping individual works—and I think that says a lot about the current nature of the literary world. The days of the 20th Century are well and truly over, and they have left behind the ailing shell of an art form.
The problem is inherent in the nature of the story. Writers don’t care to think anymore. The art of writing has become debased over the past 20 years by the carelessness of contemporary “writers”. Literature has truly fallen to the notion of “writing for writing’s sake” and those who are prevalent in the literary world are doing little to breathe new life back into one of the oldest forms of art. By writing for writing’s sake I simply mean that contemporary writers are creating stories just to write; they aren’t trying to say anything profound or make the reader think. Literature has truly dissolved to a source of entertainment; an idle form of enjoyment. This upsets me greatly. Todays reader is no longer asked to think or to engage in what they are reading. They are simply asked to go along for the ride.
It’s a truly saddening thing for an aspiring “writer” to have to witness. It’s also frightening for someone who has designs on working in academia one day. Eventually, these contemporary works will fall into the category of “literature” and will be a required vein of study in Universities. I for one, don’t see how this is going to be a possibility. There isn’t an intelligent thought in the whole of the literary world right now. And forget about trying to “study” writers like J.K. Rowling. I look at my professors: brilliant individuals who have studied the masters, and who have published volumes discussing the meaning of literature. I can’t help but think, well, who the hell am I going to study? What the hell am I going to publish volumes on? After a while, studying and writing about the authors of the 20th Century becomes stagnant. At a certain point, almost everything that can be written about the great writers, will have been written; and then what?
These are the concerns I am faced with most days when I think about my future. How safe is the field I’m going into? And I’m not talking about financial security. I could give a fuck less about financial security. I’m talking about work as actual material. Yes, we will always be able to teach the works of the 19th and 20th Centuries (plus all that came before: Shakespeare, Chaucer, Swift, etc.) but what does that do for the next wave of scholars? Whose texts are we to idolize, and spend hours picking apart with fine-toothed comb?
The literary world is in a bad way, and I’ll tell you the truth, it isn’t just because people aren’t reading. It’s because people aren’t writing well enough. Intellect has long been divorced from literature. The two concepts couldn’t be more foreign to each other.
Forget all I’ve said about the literary world, and academia, and what not. This is a tendency that is affecting mankind. It is a pandemic, and something needs to be done.
Let me know
Let me know
Let me go
Let me go
Let me have him
Let me have him
How I love him
How I love him
Is it possible, finally, for one human being to acheive perfect understanding of another?
We can invest an enormous amount of time and energy into serious efforts to know another person, but in the end, how close are we able to come to that person’s essence? We convince ourselves that we know the other person well, but do we really know anything important about anyone?
-Haruki Murakami (The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle)