Men in Black by Scott Spencer; Independence Day by Richard Ford
At one time, the American novel was (in Saul Bellow’s phrase) “an indispensable source of illumination of the present, of reflective power.” For writers like Bellow, Ralph Ellison, Wright Morris, Flannery O’Connor, John Updike, Walker Percy, and others, the novel provided, through plot, dialogue, and character, a way to think about the conditions of American life.
Scott Spencer and Richard Ford are two novelists who, entering mid-career, come about as close as anyone to claiming this particular mantle: at least in today’s literary culture, the two are rare for writing fiction that unashamedly offers a moral commentary upon the American present. Though neither is a true novelist of ideas, both illuminate an important strain in contemporary American attitudes toward life and what it demands of us. By coincidence, each, after a hiatus of some years, has recently published his sixth book of fiction, of which, by coincidence again, the main figure in each is a writer in his mid-forties.
About the Author
D.G. Myers, literary historian at the Melton Center for Jewish Studies at Ohio State University, writes our fiction chronicle and is the author of the Literary Commentary blog.