Monday, August 10, 2009

LitFic Defined!

I missed this July 3 post on Contra James Wood, "And James Wood Shall Lead Them". I have copied it in full. Edmond Caldwell in turn has taken this from China Miéville's guest-blog post at Omivoracious, "Neither a Contract nor a Promise: Five Movements to Wactch Out For," which he offers as "a few modest proposals . . . to fulfil the moment's cultural needs."

I've added (and moved to the beginning) Miéville's other four catagories with lead lines, and his coda with a great quote from Badiou. 
These are five suggestions. There will, of course and happily, be more. Many of the writers who'll try their hands at one or other of these approaches will, of course, betray their chosen movements in one or other way: their fiction will not be 'pure'. But that shouldn't lead to their explusion from their chosen schools, nor, contrariwise, the belief that these movements are bogus. In Alain Badiou's words: 'To criticize an aesthetic programme for failing to keep any of its promises is to miss the point. ... [A] programme is neither a contract nor a promise. It is a rhetorical device whose relation to what really takes place is only ever one of envelopment and protection.'

Here is to envelopment and protection.

And James Wood Shall Lead Them

China Miéville on the "LitFic Praetorians":


iii) LitFic Praetorians

Every new mess mainstream politics and culture gets us into should be its last, but never understimate its staying power. It's an ironclad, and the burgeoning econopocalypse, despite causing a little wobble here and there, is not yet putting paid to it. For the novel, this will be illustrated by a declaration of war by the lions of good taste against those sceptical of its claims to investigate the contours of The Human Condition (tm), or some such.

Unlike much previous soi disant Literary Fiction, the LitFic Praetorians will understand i) that they are a genre among many, ii) that their esteemed position is under attack. And they will decide to take the fight to the enemy.

Accordingly, this movement will continue to privilege those aspects of fiction that have come, for some, to be the sine qua non of literature itself -- a celebration of 'interiority' and a particular propagandist conception of 'character'; a prose that claims to be 'spare' and 'precise'; a striving for a horizon of metaphor to perfectly express some 'human truth' in terms of a more concrete thing (crockery, paint, a particular animal, a meteorological condition, etc, preferably referred to in the book's title); a dynamic of artful recognition; and so on. However, unlike its less self-conscious predecessors, it will do so overtly, courageously taking the battle to exteriority, militancy, estrangement and alienation, and aggressively foregrounding its concerns on such seemingly unfriendly literary turf.

Thus, for example, the redemptive power of art will be affirmed in the bloody imperial rubble of Iraq; musings on the melancholy of age and the rediscovery of life-affirmation in the arms of somewhat younger women will unfold before a backdrop of polemical dream-logic; and poignant stories of family betrayal and infidelity among academics will be set during alien invasions.

Influences include all winners of the Booker prize, particularly Ian McEwan, particularly his book -- claimed by the school as its foundational text -- Saturday.

What to say: 'Great literature transcends everyday concerns.'

What not to say: '"Literary Fiction" is a marketing category.

Via Kick Him, Honey

i) Zombiefail '09-ism

Named partly in honour (not mockery) of an important debate about race and politics that set fire to livejournal earlier this year, this will be the movement for those tired of the unrelenting imperialism of zombies in horror--and now other--fiction. The writers' position will be that what started as an invigoration (one hesitates to say 'revivification', in this context) of an antique trope has viralled to the point where its ubiquity makes it ambulonecrotophile kitsch. […]

What to say: 'It's a cultural tragedy, this commodified camp of the Death Drive.'

What not to say: 'Moar Brainzz!'

ii) Post-Elegiasm

The end of the world, whether wrought by Peak Oil, rising sea levels, the rage of nature, war, warlordism, nuclear conflagration or--D'oh!--tailored virus will not be achingly beautiful, nor morality tale. So will insist the Post-Elegiasts. […]
The influences of the High Post-Elegiasts will include Golden-Age Science Fiction, Extropianism, Futurology and Fabianism, as well as self-help manuals and Paolo Coelho. The Low will focus instead on splatterpunk, Pierre Guyotat and D. Keith Mano's The Bridge. Both wings will be united in their disdain for Alan Weisman, Richard Jefferies and Cormac McCarthy's The Road. […]

What to say: 'Fiction of justice beyond an eschatological horizon is exoneration.'

What not to say: 'Will Smith sucked but overgrown New York looked kewl.'

iv) Noird

Pronounced Nward: Weird Noir. Candidates for membership are already appearing. Crime novels, particularly of a hard-boiled variety, infused with and riffing off the strange. Detective fiction with a deeply skeptical relationship to the supposedly everyday, whether it eschews morality or not. […]

What to say: 'All crime fiction is dream fiction really, of course.'

What not to say: 'I prefer cozies.'

v) Salvagepunk

As Steampunk wheezes and clanks exhausted into the buffers, dragging an increasingly huge load of books behind it, the hunt for the next great somethingpunk is over. The orgy of para-Victoriana has been impressively tenacious, but it has its limits, and rather than yet another reclamation of an earlier mode of production--steam, dust, stone, diesel--the punk aesthetic of DIY, cobbling-together, contrariness, discordance and disrespect for the past will go meta. […]

What to say: 'All art is an act of radical forgetting.'

What not to say: 'You finally did it! Damn you all to hell!'

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