Friday, November 30, 2007

Establishment Literary Fiction: Modernism, Genre Fiction

A short piece by Mark Thwaite, of >ReadySteadyBooks, worth quoting in full.

See my recent posts:
Realist Narrative Belies Reality

Publishing Situation

What is Real? What is Realism?
Nobel Formalists
Here's Mark Thwaite:

In this week's TLS there is an abridged version Gabriel Josipovici's lecture What Ever Happened to Modernism? (which I heard Gabriel give in London, back in March, as did Stephen Mitchelmore and Ellis Sharp).

The lecture, and now the essay (which I'm afraid isn't online), made me think again about Establishment Literary Fiction (ELF). It isn't that ELF is bad. Some ELF is good. And certainly much of it is very good indeed at being ELF! But since Modernism, and again since Modernism's questions were re-articulated by the writers of the nouveau roman — especially, then, for those who see the novel as a mode of enquiry or, better, a mode of discovery — ELF seems to me to be the embodiment of Bad Faith. It manifests a willing refusal to acknowledge that the questions that Modernism posed even exist (or that the novel might be a place to inquire about their answers).

Therefore, ELF endlessly repeats the tropes and styles of the Victorian Novel, with its fingers in its ears, shouting its (sometimes very good) narrative, flaunting its (sometimes very finely drawn) characters, refusing to be interrogated and refusing to recognise its own structural ressentiment.

Conventional narrative as transparent window to "reality" renders the politics of the status quo opaque to deeper criticism. The police state merely takes up the same old story, tells it again and again: factual, untilitarian, moral, economic--all arguments slide off like so many eggs on the windshield of the passing Car of State.

As long as we believe the story is real, any story, as long as we cannot bear to see the artifice--we are complicit in creating the monster. I find those ELF writers, and the publishers, agents and readers who favor them, guilty of more than bad faith.

Additional links: Ellis Sharp on the Josipovici Talk HERE

And from This Space, HERE

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