ALL-TIME AMERICAN WRITERS TOURNAMENT
As we sketch in our brackets for the big tourney, we wonder what to do with award-winning literary personages of today such as Richard Price and Joyce Carol Oates. Both cover lower-class subjects, yet both are System writers through and through. Which means both write in the standard bourgeois word-clotted “literary” style that wins awards. (Both likely don’t think they do.)
We love populist writers (think Jack London) but believe the style of writing should fit the genre. Especially now, when literature needs to be as readable as possible to survive as a relevant art form.
The world moves on– yet Ms. Oates and Mr. Price write the way award-winning novelists wrote decades ago. Playing by the rules. No shortcuts found by these trapped animals! Here it comes– obsessively excessive detail so you learn the number of hairs in a character’s nose, and the variety of plants and brand-name of shoes in the room, and the patterns of wallpaper.
The first long introductory paragraph shows they still have it; they still can write– take that, young MFA students!– but the general reader is gone.
One wonders anyway what Joyce Carol Oates still recalls of working class life– she left it circa 1960. Especially from her Princeton ivory tower office. Princeton being the most isolated and bucolic of all isolated Ivy League ivory towers. So, the narrative is “imagined.” Which involves assuming the proper pretended “voice.” Ventriloquism, with puppets.
Keep those awards coming!
Oates and Price remain long shots to make the tourney brackets, unless someone convinces us otherwise.