Friday, May 31, 2013

I Say Stylist and Head for the Hills

An excerpt from the essay The Backlash Against the Novel

by Paul West

WHAT  IS THIS FICTION we are talking about? Surely nothing to do with best sellers and/or pulp “page-turners” or the old Dodd-Mead formula of one crisis every ten pages. No, it had to do with those deplored matters: formalism, interiority, the presumably ineffable unspoken, textural and plotly experiment, and structures flinched from the other arts. In my tousled head I carried a short list of practitioners, some of whom I knew: Barth, Coover, Davenport, Gass, Hawkes, Markson, Morrow, Sebald, Vernon, Hugh Nissenson, Poleskie, Joanna Scott, Jeanne Mackin, Janet Frame the New Zealander and Delia Falconer the Australian, plus James Hamilton Patterson, (Gerontion) and Michael Brodsky, a true heir of Beckett, and Claudio Magris, a picaresque heir of Svevo. There are others who will not now forgive me. I have trouble with the phrase “post-modern,” which always struck me as post-Renaissance, so I am aware of having flinched some post-modernists from that moldy ragbag. Asked to describe myself, I say “stylist” and head for the hills.

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PAUL WEST is the author of 50 books. He has received awards from the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters, the Lannan Prize for Fiction and the Halperin-Kaminsky Prize. He was named a Literary Lion by the New York Public Library and a Chevalier of the Order of Arts and Letters by the French Government. He has also been a runner-up for the National Book Circle Award and the Nobel Prize for Literature.

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