Monday, January 15, 2007

What Novels Are For

Bournemouth Runner at The Art of Fiction and others were pleased about one particular aspect of Zadie Smith's Guardian article: the fact that she highlights a problem previously discussed on this blog, the problem which the commercialisation of fiction publishing presents for many writers:
By this measure the duty of writers is to please readers and to be eager to do so... Above all, the modern writer has a duty to entertain. Writers who stray from these obligations risk tiny readerships and critical ridicule. Novels that submit to a shared vision of entertainment ... will always be welcomed. This is not a good time, in literature, to be a curio...

...Personally, I have no objection to books that entertain and please, that are clear and interesting and intelligent, that are in good taste and are not wilfully obscure - but neither do these qualities seem to me in any way essential to the central experience of fiction, and if they should be missing, this in no way rules out the possibility that the novel I am reading will yet fulfil the only literary duty I care about ... [novelists'] duty to express accurately their way of being in the world.
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