In partial and perhaps inadequate response to Ann Patchett's lament in the NY Times that the Pulitzer Prize for fiction committee failed to select a finalist this year--"it is infinitely ... galling to me as a reader," writes the novelist Patchett, "because there were so many good books published"--I offer these related thoughts from Atlantic magazine's B.R. Myers, who recently disemboweled, devastated, dismembered and demolished "the latest hyped-up work of staggering [and fizzling] genius," The Art of Fielding:
In an effort to offer something, anything, that is not already on Facebook, our [contemporary] writers seem less likely to go big than to go small, writing in great polished detail of the most trivial thoughts and deeds.
Later came Myers's coup de grace:
As long as the classics remain more deeply relevant to our lives than the novels our own time produces, we should remain "untimely," in Nietzsche's still-dangerous sense of the word.
And that, I would argue, especially to young readers, looms as the insuperable criticism and critique: "As long as the classics remain ..."
The sight of roving tribes of youthful clutchers of, say, Hunger Games or Twilight, mystifies the literary bejesus out of me, given that for instance Homer, a few years back, already enshrined ultimate human thrill and inhuman fickle in the Iliad, or, a few years later, Shakespeare produced dozens of masterpieces that to this day stand unparalleled in the penetrating exploration of human vices and love.
Not enough to keep you busy and your brain active, boys and girls? Well, then, still in print are Tolstoy, Dickens, Dante, Swift, Moliere, Stendhal, Hugo, Chekhov, Austen, Balzac, the Brontes, Dostoyevsky, Proust, Wilde, G. Eliot, Conrad, Waugh, as well as a few struggling colonials such as Steinbeck, Bellow, Styron, Faulkner, Updike, Hemingway, Nabokov, P. Roth, Doctorow, Mailer, Twain ...
Nevertheless yesterday, having read, studied, reread and parsed every bloody word of Hunger Games in "literature" class for a month, my daughter's entire 7th-grade contingent attended the movie "Hunger Games."
I guess there's just not enough good stuff to read, nor neither enough classic films to watch.