Beyond the Blurb: On Critics and Criticism. Published by Cow Eye Press

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Mike M.

This post reminded me of Hermione Lee's article in the NYROB in which she writes:

"In our Man Booker Prize judging for 2006, however carefully we analyzed our books, however good we agreed our preferred choices were (and we could easily have had a long list of thirty rather than nineteen novels), in the end our arguments came down to matters of taste. The most hotly debated novels on our list... divided us, finally, not because of objective aesthetic judgements, but because some of us disliked the moral atmosphere of the books, or found them claustrophobic or overinsistent, or were unable to enjoy a particular style of historical recreation, or were irritated by the narrative voice. And there is no accounting for boredom."

Since taste is so subjective, it seems likely that it's just easier to discuss the themes and ideas of a novel than the aesthetics and style used.

Mike M.

I forgot to link the article, here it is:

Robert Nagle

You raise some good points here, and I tend to agree with you on the point that stylistic/narrative methods are just as noteworthy as themes and subjects.

It should be pointed out that the article was more of a straight reportorial piece (interviewing talking heads). Not really analytical, although there are hints that the writer had opinions. This article might have worked better if it had been one writer's take on the issue and not simply an interview with several people.

Thematically, what strikes me about the landscape of new American fiction is the attraction to genre or niche. Even well-schooled relatively highbrow writers seem attracted to sci fi/erotica/romantica.

Also, the most interesting literary experimentation these days is not taking place in commercially published books; it's happening online. When I think of print books, I think of niche books; I think of traditional narrative, breezy, dialogue-driven. Internet, etc. If Updike were getting started today, what kinds of things would he be writing?

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