Saturday, August 23, 2008

The point of writers?

Don DeLillo (or, rather, the character Bill Gray in a DeLillo novel, Mao II):
“Years ago I used to think it was possible for a novelist to alter the inner life of the culture. Now bomb-makers and gunmen have taken that territory. They make raids of human consciousness. What writers used to do before we were all incorporated.”

This, of course, echoes the famous Philip Roth quote (from 1961) about reality constantly outdoing the imaginations of writers. But it also says something about the impoverishment of literature today. Mao II was written in 1991. The situation is even worse now: the bomb-makers have discovered new ways to make their work more ghastly, while the writers have apparently abdicated any responsibility for reflecting (and leading) the culture of the times.

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