Saturday, November 28, 2009

Disaffected Prose

So, I spent some time on Friday night reading some lit zines down at my local independent bookstore. I was taken by the popularity of what I'm calling disaffected prose. I use the term ironically, which is getting me into meta-levels I don't even want to consider. That is, the authorial tone seems to be "ironic," in the snarky sense of the word.

I came of age in the 90's, so I know from ironic snark, the affect of the disaffected. I had hoped we'd moved on, and I wonder why we haven't.

Is it because these authors are folks around my age, fellow products of 90's popular culture who are still stuck in that mindset? Can they not get past the ironic distance and get to know characters? Or, as in the book, Prague, do they just hate their characters?

Perhaps we're burned out from the brutish, reptilian illogic of the Bush years, where honesty and truth were sold out, ignored, and tossed on the burning pile of rubbish in downtown Baghdad. Most of us believed the bullshit, were manipulated into enabling the world's most dangerous alcoholic/addict. Integrity means nothing any more, so that is being reflected in our literature.

Now, we don't know what to trust. Sincerity turned around and bit us on the ass. Rather, what we thought was sincerity bit us. Bullshit is what bit us and now we're feeling burned, bruised, used. Yet, that's what life does, that's the nature of society - societies have always been brutal, injust, awful places (to paraphrase Joseph Campbell in, Myths to Live By.) Yet, to continue with Campbell's thought, it is incumbent on us, the writers and artists, to rise above this and to show that the likes of Shrub and Cheney cannot take our spirit nor can they sell our sincerity or our hearts.

I'm not advocating pollyanna prose. I'm advocating authentic fiction which takes risks, which gets inside of characters. Write from the heart, not a mind full of post-Bush resentment. Blow out that resentment, write real characters - don't just write about real characters. Get close, get real.


zamley said...

I agree. None of us want to be caught believing (yet again) in something that turns out to be fool's gold--and the ironic, distanced, aloof writing that I think you're talking about is certainly a way avoid this risk.

But while I'd personally love to blame Bush, there's an endless number of politicians whose personal and professional lives have exposed them as hypocrites and/or fools; likewise our financial wizards have been revealed as greedy little trolls; our insurance companies never cover what we believe; reality TV details every "real person" as a cut-throat liar; food that was promised as healthy is actually killing us; Santa Claus turned out to be fake; God...well, I won't get into that. My point is, everything we may have had faith in is turning to shit. It's understandable that authors would try to shield themselves in an armor of snarky cynicism.

But, as you said, from an artistic standpoint, there's no point if you're not putting something of yourself on the line. If you're not sincerely addressing the stuff of the soul, go home.

Good blog.

Hobie said...

Thanks for the comment, Zamley.

Authenticity is hard. Leaving judgments aside is nearly impossible (or so it seems.)

Thanks for reading.

Shaula said...

I've wondered lately where all the bleak writing comes from, myself. It doesn't strike me as reflective of the Zeitgeist--because it is so uniform, so omnipresent. Is this what is taught / rewarded in writing programs?

I find writing something bleak is easy. Putting love in the scene is much harder. Is that why fewer writers do it?

I'm up for your challenge. I want more real characters, too.