Monday, October 5, 2009

Don't take my word for it...

I've been saying it for some time (as have others). But don't take my word for it. Now Man-Booker jurist Michael Prodger is making the argument and he ought to know. He's read something like 130 novels in the last six months, which according to him (and who can argue) makes him an expert on contemporary fiction. I would just add one thought that occurred to me when we were having a minor row over at It's not just the university creative writing programs that have standardized literary output to its general detriment, but commensurate with that, the fact that fiction writers have become too narrow. Learning to write means achieving a solid competence in all aspects of the craft. I would argue that a novelist should also be able to write essays, poetry, reportage, non-fiction etc. as well. It's a rather old school notion in our specialized day and age. But if you think about it, many of the greatest novelists (Hemingway immediately comes to mind) also wrote reportage, screenplays, essays, opinion pieces, advertising etc. Having to scrape together a living not only grounded them in the concerns of their readers (as opposed to the disconnection we see today between artists and the general public) but made them more skilled (and perhaps instinctive, and therefore fresher) writers as well.

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