A couple of weeks ago, we linked to Lev Grossman’s Wall Street Journal op-ed heralding a new era of plottiness in literary fiction and an end to modernist obscurantism. Readers want story, Grossman declared, and are less and less ashamed to demand it, therefore authors should pony up.
The story v. style debate has been going on since forever, and is mostly a duel between evenly matched straw men, each with their vociferous group of backers.
The fight has recently taken on a somewhat surreal tinge, however, with groups of Swedish writers sending out manifestos. According to the Guardian, one group of signatories has promised
never to write books about young women preoccupied with love affairs and branded products, and to never “ not even under a pseudonym – write about journalists who solve murder mysteries. They also hit out at authors who are “wilfully exploiting” real life stories, writing sensationalist attacks on real individuals, or attempting to disguise journalism as literature. “We want to write novels that are read,” they concluded. “We want to make the 2010s a decade of storytelling.”
An opposing group quickly responded, saying they will
ignore the proposals and do whatever they wanted. “The unlimited potential of prose fiction makes it an art form like any other, and it needs crop rotation, transparency, conflicts, meetings and 20,000 leagues under the sea to fulfil its potential as the most important reference point for any dialogue whatsoever,” they insisted. “We want to write books which are read, thumbed, torn out of the hands of angry taxpayers, borrowed and distributed to the max.”
Surely it is only time before the duelling groups start attacking each other with pieces of flimsy-but-affordable furniture.
Meanwhile, readers “ in Sweden and elsewhere “ have nothing to lose but their interest in books altogether.