aefenglommung (aefenglommung) wrote,

Literature rant

John Updike, author of more than fifty forgettable novels, has died.

I don't mean to sound snarky or disrespectful here. I've got nothing against Updike, who by all accounts was a very nice man. My comment is on his position in American "letters."

Updike was a major part of "official literature," the authors who roam the NY Times Bestseller list, make the Book of the Month, become what "everybody who's anybody" is talking about, and are the first choice for the commencement speaker/seminar/panel/booking on Oprah. No matter what they write, it is reviewed, bought, hyped, commented upon, assigned in class...

And most of what they write is drivel.

Now, not all the Big Names write drivel. Michael Crichton wrote a lot of very good books (along with some that needed a good bit of further work before seeing publication). But I don't think that Crichton is considered a Major Writer, just a very, very successful one.

To be a Major Writer, you must write what Those Who Know like and approve of. Mere fiction -- for (gasp!) entertainment's sake -- is not enough. You must be Serious. Weighty. Full of the right sort of Angst. Progressive. You must expose how dead and inauthentic American life is. And all that sort of thing.

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