Sunday

The visual arts are happening; novels are not

The visual arts are happening; novels are not
OK, so this begs many, many more questions. Like, historical context. When we were a largely print society, when written discourse was important, a radical novel could test the boundaries of a typographic-minded society. Cultural institutions were different then, politics and thought gravitated to print. The internet age operates on a completely different set of values, where written discourse is perceived as formal, dated, and writers are a dime a billion. The interwebs are more like television blended with herp derp comments and interactivity. We still work out moral questions and boundaries through our arts, but increasingly these are played out in terms of online-facilitated or -augmented discussions. Because online is where our social and cultural discourse is increasingly heading. The visual arts, on the other hand, can tap into an immediacy and power in this medium much faster than a printed, long and time-intensive work of attention. And so novels and novel culture become to seem quaint and archaic, despite the still-strong symbolic weight we give to "authors" and "novelists". Look at Martin Amis (if we can analogise his as the demise of novel-culcha): his novels tapped into a smart zeitgeist in the 80s, culminating with Money; and then he - first slowly, then rapidly - became an aged laddist writing near-embarrassing tosh that had neither relevance nor insight to give our times. With sales to match, natch. But because he is an "author" with pedigree and a name, he can't not get published, and he carries on. And the bookshows and newspaper reviews keep reading him (if only to sink their knives deeper (Josipovici? - how right he was)). Which is fine and natural and how we've come to expect declines in power. And on the other hand I won't have a bar of the doomsayers saying the Novel is Dead over and over. And filesharing and random renegades like 50 Shades and Potter notwithstanding - I think the novel - the work of long attention - still has plenty of oomph and relevance in the right hands and minds. Maybe I just want the good writers to lift their game. Maybe I have no right. Maybe it should die a declining death, so that new forms of written art may emerge. Maybe that death already happened long ago... Or maybe I'm talking about the narrow spectrum of literary/hibrow fiction, as opposed to all and every fiction, which is healthy and thriving. Hence my belief in Ellroy...

1 comment:

Strikethru said...

So true. Haven't seen this expressed well until reading your post.