What you (may have) missed on 3:AM this week:
Fiction: ‘Auckland Bob’ by Kris Saknussemm
Flash fiction: ‘The Party’ by Alan McCormick & Jonny Voss
Interviewed: Susan Tomaselli talks Boxer, Beetle, eugenics, urban planning, experimental music & Modernism with Ned Beauman:
There’s no one particular thing that’s wrong with today’s novel. What does worry me is the feebleness of this year’s debate about the place of Modernism in contemporary fiction – there are some very articulate, tenacious people on one side, and some very mild, apologetic people on the other, and not much satisfying argument in between. Perhaps, to start with, we could all agree to stop throwing around words like “middlebrow”, “Victorian”, “kitsch”, “corporate publishing” and “liberal humanist” as if they had any real meaning in this context beyond pure scorn. I, for instance, would call myself a “liberal humanist”, but from what I’ve been able to gather, this must mean that I’ve never read Beckett, I’m squeamish about violence, I supported the war in Iraq, and if I read a pseudo-experimental novel and find it too arid and portentous to endure, then it’s definitely my own fault. Well, thanks for letting me know.
To be clear, I quite agree that we shouldn’t mothball the “challenges of Modernism”. But we shouldn’t give them more than their due, either. Every decade and every literary movement since the novel began has posed us, like an examination paper, a set of fascinating, insoluble problems, and those of the inter-war avant-garde are just one set among many. Yes, they’re more disconcerting and influential than most, but they’re not conclusive or definitive or supreme. If you’re preoccupied with the challenges of the 1930s, then you may well be ignoring the challenges of the 1850s or the 1960s. Which is fine: all it means is that you’ve picked the combination of questions that happens to interest you. But if other writers decide to pick a different combination, it’s not your place to condescend to them for it. Their exam is just as hard as yours.
First posted: Sunday, September 26th, 2010.