The fable that is modern literature
2021/09/13 § Leave a comment
“There is, in fact, not much point in writing a novel unless you can show the possibility of moral transformation, or an increase in wisdom, operating in your chief character or characters. Even trashy bestsellers show people changing. When a fictional work fails to show change, when it merely indicates that human character is set, stony, unregenerable, then you are out of the field of the novel and into that of the fable or the allegory. The American or Kubrickian Orange is a fable; the British or world one is a novel.”Anthony Burgess’ Introduction to the 1986 American edition of A Clockwork Orange
This explains, again, why once, to a request for <quote>fables<unquote> that were clockpunk in theme, and I sent them clockpunk fables about ratchet chitons, they said no, and were happy to say why: they were not suitable because they didn’t show this very transformation. Now I was miffed, as I had spent some time actually researching what fables actually were before writing..… but I had failed to read the real request — mainstream tales where people go tick tock as expected by the market. No creativity here please where you actual do what they literally asked for please.
Anyway that’s what modern fiction’s meta-expectations are, stories which fabulize how people change or can change. It happily ignores the facts of life where people refuse or cannot change. It’s fiction by definition because it tells the enjoyable lie that people change. There are cries of two-dimensionality and flatness in the main characters otherwise. It supplies the drug that is some sort of empathy meth or pop-psy heroin for isolated readers in the economy.
So I say literature and thus fiction needs to change, it’s a fable that cannot think about context. Thus it is market driven, by a market managed to be like this…. it supplies escapist pseudo-psychology, which is itself a reincarnation of even older devotee-personal-god salvation stories about transformation, to readers who have empathy, and who dream of agency, romantic or otherwise. Even all that identitarian diversity stuff (pronouns/ethinicity/migration) reeks of this indulgence.
This sets readers up to fail when they meet narcissists in the real world. There are claims reading novels help learn/build/navigate life as a moral person but if you are devoid of empathy… it won’t change you. GEDDIT.
Apparently the self-centred end of the personality spectrum is increasing as a proportion of the whole population, so some statistic say narcissists are thus approaching 10% of the population, given that psychopaths are a 10% subset of that 10%…. and given how well grandiose narcissists do in systems they set up to suit themselves…. (modern business, party rooms, anything with a hierarchy), modern fiction is pulling the wool over peoples eyes.
Dreaming/reading [dreadming] about personal transformation will not change the world to be more caring, it will not even maintain the progress that has been made.
I don’t see any hint of it changing at the moment, thus modern literature is itself that which it perhaps most fears, a fable.