Thursday, June 23, 2016

Tedious Opinion

"Ah, a brilliant work of fiction!" I tried Salman Rushdie. I don't get him. 

Perhaps it is my lazy nature, but there aren't many hyped or classic works that I've reluctantly slogged through. Although I'm not exactly advertising my regency romance stage in high school. I do not consider never having read Wuthering Heights to be a proud lack of achievement.
I have definitely fallen prey to an author's reputation. How can I not? It's amazing how attractive a sale item becomes once I know the hauteur of the designer. Is a book any different? 

Zoë Heller explains how her school training for revering the literary greats left her unprepared to critique any sort of non-officially "sacred" writing. 

As are many of us, it would seem. Eventually, she became less admiring and more discerning about the big-kahuna authors. Heller concludes: 
It’s possible, of course, to get a little drunk on the pleasures of having unfashionable views. Contrarianism is a species of vanity and just as much of a bore, in its way, as unquestioning obeisance to prevailing opinion. (Every now and then, I have to check myself and ask, Do I really not rate Elena Ferrante, or do I just enjoy upsetting her cultish fans?) Still, it is better, by and large, to be a conceited skeptic than to spend one’s life sitting meekly on the critical bandwagon.
I couldn't get through the first Ferrante book. (Can I admit that?) But I don't think that questioning everything is any better than questioning nothing. Too often the former merely the same default reaction as the latter, not necessarily based on anything. 

In any case, opinion about current works will mean little a century from now: 
Predicting the next great American novel: 

When we think about the future, we envision a version of the present: that the TV shows, movies and singers who matter most today will be the ones remembered in100 years. History says otherwise, Chuck Klosterman argues in But What if We're Wrong? Thinking About the Present as if It Were in the Past. The works that endure, he says, are the ones that suture societies find meaningful, whether they are valued in their day or not. Herman Melville's Moby Dick was scorned when it came out, and Franz Kafka was dead before The Trial saw print. So which of today's writers will be remembered in 2116? Probably not Philip Roth or Jonathan Franzen, Klosterman says, but someone writing in obscurity (perhaps on the deep web), representing an ultra-marginalized group and covering subjects that can be completely reinterpreted by future readers. "The most amazing writer of this generation," he writes, "is someone you've never heard of."—Sarah Begley, TIME

Hey, that means any of us could be famous! As long as one doesn't mind being long dead and not seeing a penny from it. 


Daniel Saunders said...

Which Rushdie did you try? I read The Satanic Verses a while back. I thought it was OK, but not amazing. Magic realism can be an acquired taste.

Not sure I agree with citing Kafka as an example of someone scorned in his lifetime; it was Kafka himself who held back on publishing most of his work and The Trial, like all his novels was considered unfinished. It's true that some popular authors quickly fall into obscurity, but I wouldn't say that ALL famous authors drop out of fashion. Shakespeare and Dickens were famous enough in their day.

Signed, a poor devil of a sub-sub-librarian.

Princess Lea said...

I don't even remember. It was years ago, and enough to put me off my feed indefinitely.

Take it up with Chuck Klosterman. :)