McGurl’s Spirited Riposte to Batuman

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17 May 2011

If I was a Tweeter, I would Tweet this – an interview(ish) with Mark McGurl (author of The Program Era) in which he responds to Elif Batuman‘s controversial critique, in The London Review of Books last fall, of both his book and The Creative Writing Program (and the contemporary fiction it generates) in general. There are endless follow-up discussions about this all around the Web, but reading at least these two if you haven’t already is, I think, worthwhile.

A snippet from McGurl’s riposte:

I think what is going on in these indictments of the mediocrity of contemporary fiction is a kind of unacknowledged mourning. What is mourned is not good new novels, of which there are still plenty—of which there may be more than ever—but the passing of a culture in which the novel was more central than it is now, when it has to compete for our attention with so many other forms of storytelling, with movies and television, and now also with that great engulfing time-suck, the internet. It may be that these new media, in sync with the advance of technology on all fronts, are better equipped (literally) to bear witness to the essential qualities of our point in history. The mistake—but mourning is so often irrational—is in blaming novelists for this state of affairs, as though there was something they could or should have done to stop The Wire from being so unbelievably good.

Here is what I’ve already said about all this.  I think I have more to say.  This “elitism” thing is bugging me, it’s a hugely loaded and, I think, abused word.  Coming soon.

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