As the hurricanes of post-literacy sweep their way (and not for the first time) over the levees of literature, we are left to ask one simple question: how will we -- we poor lit-types -- survive? For it is up to us to figure this one out! No mercy for us -- no indeed! We who have set ourselves as guardians of some of the finest traditions of culture have been revealed to be fools who ignored the most obvious warnings ... self-absorbed fools; monomaniacal fools, capable of simultaneously obsessing over one set of problems -- our writing -- while ignoring another: the gathering electronic storm.
Yes, yes, the hurricane, it was foreseen. And not just a week beforehand. It was foreseen forty or fifty years ago! Sharp winds gusted through our living rooms! Powerful breezes sucked back the drapes, fluttered the pages of an open book, and sent shivers over our skins! And the cause of it – the eye of the mindless storm – sat in front of us, a seeming zone of peace, the television!
Well, some will say, be careful how you apportion blame! Was it this small invention, a mere electronic box, that could have triggered the horror and the death that now floods the world of literary publishing? (The corpses lie everywhere: the creative writing MFAs, now draped in plastic sheets, their manuscripts soaked and illegible in the toxic water.)
It’s true, it’s true! The book was in trouble – its levees were weak – long before the television set! Remember the typhoon of 1931? Remember the movie?
We must remember the old disasters! Not because they were worse than the new disasters, but because they put it all in a little perspective! We writers (the ones who still survive) are dehydrating on the floor of the stadium, pacing how we drink from what might be the last plastic jug of water we receive for a very long time! And wasn’t it just yesterday (or a couple of months ago) that it was all about the twin towers? Wasn’t it only recently that 9/11 was the real cause of the malaise in literary fiction?!
Who knows? We’re shell-shocked! We can’t think straight! But think we must! Yes, we writers have lost very little compared to the ones who have been devastated beyond comprehension: the distraught parents, the orphaned children, the uninsured and the desperate!
But please don’t dismiss us literary types huddled in a corner as self-absorbed! We not only are aware of the greater suffering around us, but wish to document it! And in our state of tender sensitivities, please do not insist that the only valid way to do that now is through an article … through non-fiction! Don’t you see?! That’s how we were traumatized in the first place! We’re novelists, dammit! Indulge us! We are not asking for a gargantuan handout! All we want is the ability to make literary art!!
A bas les demandes sociologique! Down with an insistence on constantly being factual! We realize there is a crisis! The Millennial Century has already shown it is quite adept at producing crises! But don't tell us that's all we can write about! Allow us our scrap of creativity!
We will think in new ways! We will try to anticipate the next storm! Why not new forms, new techniques? Perhaps the levees and break-waters can be strengthened! And so we will do our best, we writers of a literature that seems impractical! We will attempt to be -- well, we attempt to be novel! We will write books that read like screen-plays! We will use pictures, drawings, unveiled autobiography! But please, please ... listen to us as we speak: a moment of indulgence … a small gesture of understanding….......
We want to build another house to live in! We need new shelter!!