I was just thinking about a few things:
I frequently think of what was going through Mark Twain’s mind when he picked up the manuscript for Huckleberry Finn after letting it sit half-finished in his closet for ten years. I wonder what drove him to publish it in its uneven form, after the Herculean task of restarting and putting something like an ending on it. I wonder what his confidence was like as it went to the publishers. I wonder what he really thought of his flawed, wonderful masterpiece as it went to press. The one thing I can say for sure is that we can be glad he didn’t say “Nahh. . . screw it.”
I find it very hard to read most modern adult fiction. There are so many books and stories where nothing seems to happen. An atmosphere is set, but the plot seems either non-existent or so buried or so minimal as to be indistinguishable from the noise floor of more descriptive details of the restaurants the characters frequent or the doodles on the wallpaper they remember from their childhoods. It frequently leaves the reader with the feeling that nothing happened at all, and thus nothing matters. Maybe that’s the idea.
I find most modern adult fiction to be the rough equivalent of “smooth jazz.” Authors are like Boney James or Dave Koz, doodling here and there, playing with a few fussy extensions of a very boring hook while trying not to say anything that might pin them down to a point of view. To give offense is the last thing they want to do to their audience in the waiting rooms and airplane seats across America.
What happened to the detestable anti-heroes you ended up loving in some way? The Joe Christmases or Tony Montañas or Archie Bunkers? Can we not tolerate them any longer? We need more greedy, sloppy, racist, classist, homophobic characters who win us over with occasional flashes of humanity. The reader can still want them to lose, but victory over them is only significant if we see and hate them in three dimensions. (Come to think of it, Don Draper from Mad Men is probably one of them. Are there others? In literature?)
I dare writers to write about real things that smack the reader in the head like a brick falling off the back of a truck. I want to read writers who acknowledge they know there’s an objective reality and who yet maintain a reserve by denying that they can ever know it completely, thus letting the reader decide for himself. If nothing at all is real to you then you are really talking about nothing, and that’s really kind of boring. Like Boney James. Or Dave Koz.
I intentionally went to college with other students who tended to disregard Nietzsche as a sort of demon who had destroyed the world. And yes, in a way he contributed to the downfall of the stasis of the culture that preceded him. But he did this by asking questions. In saying “God is dead” he challenged the people of the day to show him the acknowledgement of the loving, all-powerful God in the way people lived their lives. They couldn’t then, and they still can’t even today. But since his day, philosophy has been wallowing in masturbatory schnact. Nietzsche was the last real philosopher. Everyone since him has been playing with words.
To me, modernism and postmodernism coalesce into a single blob. At some point, it was decided that man could save himself. There’s the real demarcation. Ancients believed God would do the saving. Modernism was the initial sincere attempt to better human nature and reach a sort of beatitude through reason and design and man’s own understanding and works. Post-modernism is the sad, rueful giggling upon realising the failure and foolishness of modernism itself. “Whoops! Our bad. Hehehehe. Well, we don’t know what’s going on now, and you’re still fucked. But . . . Ahhh. . . Umm. . . I dunno. . . here’s some ambivalence and a taco made of rusty bolts” should be the motto of postmodernism.
The devil’s essence is just an idea. The devil incarnate is simple, refined sugar.
Most of my stories feature things blowing up in the least expected ways. The world is revealed to have been an illusion — a sort of trompe-l’œil. I like to move the painted matte scenes behind the protagonist in unexpected ways. But, BUT! There’s still a “real world” in them, somehow.
I mean, at least I think there is.