Write Stuff That Isn’t Boring

Author and Time book critic Lev Grossman lets rip with a passionate editorial about the need for novels to NOT BE BORING:

The discipline of the conventional literary novel is a pretty harsh one. To read one is to enter into a kind of depressed economy, where pleasure must be bought with large quantities of work and patience. They have trained us, Pavlovianly, to associate a crisp, dynamic, exciting plot with supermarket fiction, and cheap thrills, and embarrassment. Plot was the coward’s way out, for people who can’t deal with the real world.

If you’re having too much fun, you’re doing it wrong.

Paradoxically, the financial decline of the publishing industry may actually be helping readers, by driving writers and editors back to WRITING STUFF THAT PEOPLE WANT TO READ:

The novel is getting entertaining again. Writers like Michael Chabon, Jonathan Lethem, Donna Tartt, Kelly Link, Audrey Niffenegger, Richard Price, Kate Atkinson, Neil Gaiman, and Susanna Clarke, to name just a few, are busily grafting the sophisticated, intensely aware literary language of Modernism onto the sturdy narrative roots of genre fiction: fantasy, science fiction, detective fiction, romance.

This is the future of fiction. The balance of power is swinging from the writer back to the reader, and compromises with the public taste are being struck all over the place. Lyricism is on the wane, and suspense and humor and pacing are shedding their stigmas and taking their place as the core literary technologies of the 21st century.

To which I can say, welcome to capitalism. Imagine that–a revolution that comes from giving people what they actually want.

For more on this topic, check out one of my classic posts from 2005, “Why Isn’t It Fun To Read?

As I told my classmates after reading “Best American Short Stories 1994,” “After I finished the book, I felt like committing suicide. Man, what a downer!”

P.S. Apologies for the all-caps. I must have read too many Dave McClure posts recently.

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