Is the tomato a fruit or vegetable? The controversy still rages.
May 11, 2012
When Doris Betts, an award-winning novelist died recently, whose characters grappled with deep subjects like religious faith, freedom, captivity and original sin, and often compared to Flannery O’Connor (according to the New York Times) for the way she evoked grand metaphysical conflicts, one is reminded:
What happened to the serious novel?
No easy answers apparently.
Norman Mailer, in “Advertisements for Myself,” wrote that writing the “Great American Novel” against all comers was the equivalent of a 15 round fight.
He was up to it, but did he succeed?
It wouldn’t matter to V.S. Naipaul who argues that fiction is basically meaningless in capturing the complexities of today's post-Sept. 11 world.
Killing off the novel has always been fashionable.
In 1925, the year Theodore Dreiser's "An American Tragedy" was published, Jose Ortega y Gasset wrote the "Decline of the Novel."
He coined the term "razón vital," and said, in essence, the novel has to have a vital reason to exist.
Perhaps the real reason he tried to destroy the novel is that he couldn't write one.
So what’s the story?
It's amazing with all the weight heaped on writing the great novel, American or otherwise, that anyone would attempt one.
But if someone did, would we have capacity to appreciate it?