Monday, September 19, 2011

Millennialist Conservatism

I’ve always considered myself a literary writer and never bothered about defining myself more clearly than that.  Looking for ways to market my novels, I expanded my profile on Smashwords to include the following:

The bulk of my writing is influenced by my concerns about millennialist conservatism and the legacy of 9/11. It perturbs me greatly that 9/11 has put the fear of some generic judgmental monotheistic deity into us, so that we seem to have rebounded to a world before the great social and philosophical revolutions of the Sixties. We huddle into the false security of definitions of morality and goodness we actually outgrew decades ago.

It’s almost inconvenient, even vulgar, having something to say.  Stephen King has something to say, as does Pynchon, but they both started saying it when people were more open to listening.  I’m a great consumer of television candy, and lose patience quickly with a show that has some profound social message woven, however subtly, into its narrative fabric.  Yet I can’t seem to escape the notion that novels march to a different drum.  Most of the novelists I love are saying something—or practice their craft in a way that comments self-reflexively on the art of the novel itself.  When I read for story, I prefer children’s literature.

Yet here’s an excerpt from one of my new novels, spoken by a woman who was a professor of prosody and rhetoric at Yale and is now a high-society madam:

“Not that I have anything against Ms Rowling, whose work I thoroughly enjoy, but if, with less time on our hands and more distractions to contend with, even adults’re reading children’s fiction these days, what’s to become of truly adult literature.  Perhaps this is what it means to suffer the children and inherit the kingdom.  Nine-Eleven has done exactly what its masterminds wanted it to do.  It has put the fear of Allah into us.  We’re running scared from our former self-indulgence for fear of being smitten, if not by any one of the various monotheistic deities we keep around to make us feel like shit about ourselves as often as we need to then by another terrorist attack.”  (From Cherry Brandy: The Liqueur Sextet I)  


  1. Perhaps the growing trend of adults reading children's (or YA) literature is more a function of the desire to return to simplicity, with linear plots and a compelling ending. Yet there are a few authors, especially in the YA market, who manage to bridge both worlds, and do so exceedingly well.

  2. Very true. I think adult literature reached such a point of self-conscious artifice (in literary fiction) and self-indulgence (in popular fiction) that readers were wondering what had happened to telling a good story with characters one could embrace. Scott Westerfeld, whose novels are superbly researched and constructed, is excellent at infusing his works with adult psychology in a way that doesn’t alienate either the YA or adult audience.