Tuesday, 17 May 2011
The Trouble With Fiction
I have to admit that over the last number of years I’ve found it harder and harder to read fiction. When I say fiction, I’m referring to the corpus of so-called ‘high literature’ that constitutes the accepted canon. When I try to discover why this is so, I can only say that I find most fiction generally serves the purpose of life affirmation, consolidation of the status-quo and the validation of all the usual bourgeois values. Rarely does one find a novel that portrays what I take to be the most obvious features of life: its futility, its built-in structures of dissatisfaction, its vanity, the misery of the world and so on. Generally nearly every novel is an affirmation of the lives of its characters (which, when boiled down, generally means an affirmation of the life of the author) and an affirmation of the world. The message of so many novels amounts to nothing more than ‘Yeah, life is difficult, but hey, it’s all worthwhile really and we must keep the show on the road’. Only rarely does one discover a black gem of a novel that begs to differ. Works such as Journey To The End of The Night by Louis-Ferdinand Celine, No Longer Human by Osamu Dazai, the novels of Thomas Bernhard and those of Samuel Beckett (although there is in the Beckett academic industry a conspiracy to portray him as a life-affirming comedian rather than the dark sage he really is) provide rare and desperately needed oases amongst the infinite libraries of life-affirming prose. Personally, I find my flagging taste for fiction to be a source of discomfort, as reading is surely one of the few great and last refuges from suffering. If anyone has any novel recommendations they’d like to share that they think would hit the (bitter) sweet spot, I’d love to hear from you.