Why No One Reads Contemporary Fiction

Roger Kimball is the latest to admit he doesn’t read a lot of contemporary fiction and to speculate why. Short version: there’s no common culture. Or in a few more sentences:

We lack the requisite community of readers, and the ambient shared cultural assumptions, to provide what we might call the responsorial friction that underwrites the traction of publicly acknowledged significance. The novel in its highest forms requires a certain level of cultural definiteness and identity against which it can perform its magic. The diffusion or dispersion of culture brings with it a diffusion of manners and erosion of shared moral assumptions. Whatever we think of that process — love it as a sign of social liberation or loathe it as a token of cultural breakdown — it has robbed the novel, and the novel’s audience, of a primary resource: an authoritative tradition to react against.

I complained about something similar just the other day. What E. D. Hirsch Jr. called “cultural literacy” may no longer be possible, not only because the works of the past are no longer considered indispensable to becoming human, but also because no one could possibly agree what the indispensable works are, even if anyone still believed as a general rule that some are.

0
Shares
Google+ Print

Why No One Reads Contemporary Fiction

Must-Reads from Magazine

Trump Tries a New Tack on the Peace Process

The definition of sanity.

President Donald Trump’s address to the UN last week received considerable attention for what he actually said. No less interesting, however, is what he didn’t say. The speech contained zero mention of the Palestinians, zero mention of their conflict with Israel, and zero mention of the peace process Trump has been trying to revive.

16
Shares
Google+ Print

Trump is Pavlov and We Are The Dogs

Podcast: Trump starts a fight, but will he win it?

The first COMMENTARY podcast of the week finds us (me, Abe Greenwald, and Noah Rothman) discussing the weekend of knee-taking and Trump-tweeting about patriotism and the NFL and blah blah blah while North Korea threatens hydrogen bomb-testing and Puerto Rico reverts to a state of nature. And we enjoy the decline and fall of Valerie Plame. Give a listen.

9
Shares
Google+ Print

Donald Trump, Cultural Wrecking Ball

What is he winning exactly?

Conservative political analysts seem so wrapped up in the matter of whether or not Donald Trump can, no one has given much thought to whether he should.

27
Shares
Google+ Print

London Is Closed to Competition

Competition is a scary thing.

Soon after last summer’s U.K. vote to leave the European Union, London Mayor Sadiq Khan launched a publicity campaign to reassure investors that his city would remain a dynamic, global hub after Brexit. “London Is Open” was the slogan, and it was supposed to “show the world that London remains entrepreneurial, international and full of creativity and possibility.”

20
Shares
Google+ Print

The Case for Kurdistan

A boon to America, the region, and the world.

The Kurds have been a people without a state for centuries. Monday’s independence referendum in northern Iraq’s Kurdish zone is an important step toward rectifying this historic injustice, and I believe the U.S. is making a grave mistake by opposing the vote.

70
Shares
Google+ Print