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Perhaps I just don't get it, but it seems to me that if Evans wants books to "communicate that whatever identity we may have is composed not merely of ourselves but of others," then why would he be so enamored of linear narratives? If your goal is to demonstrate or explore the various, and often wildly divergent, strands that make up each individual identity, why exactly would plot be paramount? This actually sounds like a pretty good prescription for one of those plotless stories that goes nowhere.

Of course, you could write a fairly banal but uppity plot that demonstrated the "links" between individuals. But I don't see how this story would demonstrate anything other than the very obivous sort of superficial links that, frankly, are so obvious to anyone who has lived on this planet for any time that they don't need pointing out.

Lastly, regarding Henry James. If Evans thinks he was so interested in plots then why do so many of his books basically have the same plot?

R. A. Rubin

Ahhhh, I'm with the complaining critic. I suppose all those pointless post-modern novels just give Academics orgasms, but isn't there a danger that hacks like Grishom are left all the spoils. The public is hungry for stories that satisfy primitive urges. After all, didn't The Bard satisfy all strata, low brow, middle and upper? Let writing thrill all.


oh no not again ...

Telling comment: A snippet from the Arkansas Democrat Gazette's interview of B.R.Myers (who wrote the Atlantic Monthly piece "A Reader's Manifesto"):

ADG: When you wrote that "we have to read a great book more than once to realize how consistently good the prose is ...": what book did you have in mind? The first book I thought of was Gatsby, which hasn't a word too many.
BRM: Henry de Montherlant said the main things a writer needs are the gift of observation and the gift of imagery. Nabokov displays both these gifts in Laughter in the Dark, but the story is so involving that you are barely conscious of his presence at all; instead, you see life through the eyes of a poet as if this were the most natural thing in the world ...

Dan Green

I'm afraid that at the present I'm not very enthusiastic about satisfying "primitive urges." The "public" clearly has plenty of other opportunities to slake those urges. Can't literature be allowed to look for better uses of our time?

R. A. Rubin

There's nothing more important than our primitive urges.

By the way Dan, you owe me a piece soon.


Normal, run-of-the-mill novelists like Updike, Oates, Roth etc... continue to write novels with plots. Plotted narrative are the norm, whether in mainstream "literary" or in"genre" fiction. So what's the problem that's being addressed in such "pointless" essays? I'm with Dan here.


I agree with Dan on this. This Evans character strikes me as yet another goober in the long line of anti-art pundits where anything too challenging or different is "arty" and "pretentious."

Leave satisfying our primitive urges to advertising. Marketers spend big bucks on finding our "reptilian hot buttons." (For example, SUVs appeal to our desire for domination.)

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