Sunday, August 30, 2009

Appearing Elsewhere

I have a post up at Conversational Reading, taking on Lev Grossman's painfully obtuse essay "Good Books Don't Have to Be Hard." Grossman has just published a fairly well-received fantasy-ish novel, and he's now trying his hand at the self-promotion disguised as general-theory-of-the-novel genre: the essay is about how the Modernists have kept smart people from enjoying plotty novels for the past century or so, but now, never fear, writers (like Grossman) are shrugging off all that baggage and indulging themselves to their respective hilts.

As Stephen Mitchelmore points out in a comment, this is a Groundhog Day situation: writers like Grossman say ridiculous things like this all the damn time. Maybe it's not worth the bother, but what bugged me about this particular instance was not so much the general argument or the attitude, but the ridiculousness of Grossman's specific examples. The blithe inaccuracy of selling A Passage to India as some plotless, unenjoyable Modernist experiment is deeply offensive to me. (And that's not to mention my irritation at such an insulting characterization of Modernist experimentation.) Surely, if there is any honor among magazine critics, such indifference to fact is antithetical to it.


Rohan Maitzen said...

The orderly, complacent, optimistic Victorian novel had nothing to say to them.

Which novel is that, exactly?! I was glad to see you take down his shallow assertions about the 19thC novel along with his caricature of Modernism.

Adam Roberts said...

That's a splendid piece, Andrew.