The State of Literature in the West

It’s an absolute disaster, I’m going to say first and foremost, reminded to me with some horseshit of which I had the significant displeasure to make acquaintance just recently on Twitter.

Running your own business is a dirty, soul-crushing affair, and being a writer is not much different.  Thanks to the nature of the medium, many would argue that it’s more challenging than other similar career paths.  As such, writers are always on the lookout for a grand opportunity, that one essential connection that will drive them from ignominy into the limelight.  Getting to the point, there was a hashtag trending on Twitter–I can’t remember the name of the fucking thing–in which editors and publishers tweeted out messages of the sort of transcripts they’re looking for and accepting.  There’s nothing wrong with this in and of itself; it provides another way for aspiring writers to connect with the publishing world even if it does leave all the power in the hands of the latter.  Some publishers and editors were really looking for nothing more than genre-specific cues, and there’s nothing wrong with that.  Different publishers focus on different genres; no big deal; it’s what they specialize in.  What got to me were some of the more specific requests.  I can remember most notably something to the effect of “A story about a woman with a crippling disability who can use magic, but can’t use that magic to cure her crippling disability.”  That’s not really a genre, is it?  It’s a personal fascination, and no-one’s fucking likely to have a finished manuscript of that sort ready.  There was much of the same; it read like a score of B-movies.  Most of these calls were for such subject matter as would particularly appeal to the uglier edifice of our current zeitgeist.  There were a lot of vampires; there were a lot of edgy teenagers [the call for young adult literature might as well have been a fucking avalanche]; and there were a lot of homosexuals and sexually confused superheroes.

I wrote a vicious criticism in reply, which received a lot of attention, none of it good, but that’s neither here nor there.

And so I reiterate that literature is dead.  Reading has often been a form of entertainment, but I don’t think it ever tried so hard to eschew the artistic.  Worst of all was how utterly cynical were these calls.  They don’t care about producing great literature; they care only about the bottom fucking line.  It makes me wonder why they got into writing in the first place.

What follows may not seem tangential, but it is.

I would hesitate to reply if a reader asked me my greatest writing influences, even though they’re freely available on my Goodreads author’s page.  That’s not because I’m ashamed of the authors that have made me what I am, but I’m afraid it would illustrate a gulf between myself and my audience that neither of us would be entirely comfortable with.  And this isn’t an insult, but it is nevertheless compelling.  The vast majority of writers who have influenced me are dead, some of them by thousands of years.  There’s probably only or two writers among them that are still alive, and they’re all to a fucking T white and male–the dead and the living.

Now, I don’t want to brag too much, though I can get away with a little, but when I pick out something I want to read, I want to pick out something I can learn from–and learn as much as possible.  I’ve found the greatest success in appealing to the glorious legacy of western literature heading back all the way to Homer’s Iliad, the very beginning.  In a lot of ways, I’m a hide-bound traditionalist, and I find myself disgusted with my peers, who are always and always and always more interested in the action in a narrative rather than the form of the narrative.  If all you care about are outrageous draws, then make B-movies.

I recently gave people advice about being an author.  I wish I could follow it myself.  My brain is apparently aging prematurely and will continue to do so until I’m dead.  Unrelated.  I don’t even know what that means; I can’t gauge how serious that is.  My parents both were and continue to be dangerous workaholics–rather monkish in nature–and have preferred to live through their labor rather than their lives.  I’ve always had the same sort of problem.  I don’t feel like I’m worthwhile unless I’ve done something I can be proud of.  And while you might ask me what I’d done in the past, I’d retort, complaining bitterly about what I’d done lately.  My dad’s retirement age, and he’d retire but for the fact that he’d have nothing to do.  The man lives and breathes his job, and if he gave it up he’d likely just resort to alcoholism, which wouldn’t be ideal at his age.  I want to be different.  My mother, after retiring from a very stressful job she worked for thirty years, twelve hours every workday, took up a retirement job a year after her retirement, which seems to have helped her unrestricted well of energy, but even this galls her.

I don’t want my life to be a list of goals completed but a recitation of performances done.