I sometimes wonder if the time of the great American novelist might have passed. I wonder if the way that we made novels and that brilliant hint of what some might call Americana. The odd kind of life adventures that you would get out of your Cormac McCarthys and Ernest Hemmingways don’t really happen to most people anymore. There were generations of men drafted into war or working at sea for months at a time or living in a real cut off rural area that doesn’t exist in the same supply in the United States that it used to.
I’m not claiming that these changes are good or bad things. The novels and writings of people should reflect the time period that they live in. If people still told stories in the style of Beowulf and that was all we have could we really say that we had progressed as far as we have? Could we claim that we had pushed the bounds and looked for those niches in writing that became genres and became mainstream and became clichés.
Those that know me might find it odd that I seem a little nostalgic. That’s not the case at all. I have problems reading the old writings that people swear by. I put down The Fellowship of the Ring after a little over one hundred pages because it was boring me to tears. I have no appreciation for the high end literature of the mid nineteenth to twentieth century for the most part. While I love the mythology surrounding Lovecraft and do admire his descriptive prowess, I think that if anyone were to write like that in this day and age it would be shrugged off as being overly purple (and rightfully so).
There is should to be some study about what the modern novel is about, but I think it’s really hard to pin down what America is about. I am sort of reluctant to look these things up because I feel that it would be like knowing the moves to the tricks that the magician is doing. I don’t want what people have decided is supposed to be perceived as today’s American to leak into my own writing artificially. This whole thing is just food for thought, I guess.