The Death of Fine Literature
I recently received two valuable reviews at silverpenwriters.org: both representing a perspective that is becoming ever more common in literature. I cannot fault the critiques because they are both eminently pragmatic. They refer to the consistently collapsing bar upon which rests the title of purple prose.
I deliberately use the metaphor which invokes the image of the sporty high jump and pole-vault because our society has come to respect physical prowess above all else and is caught up in the notion of one ideal body-type.
It applauds athletes who strive for higher, more exotic goals, and quite right; for surely it is indeed laudable to always seek to improve: to perfect your specialised skills in any competitive arena … unless you are an artist or writer.
At primary school I was trained with my classmates to compose short, image- intensive prose, which was called – less than imaginatively – compositions. In college we were encouraged to use metaphor rather than simile, because the latter was for children, and anyone could do that. We should use language which demonstrated that we were intelligent adults.
My youth was full of CS and C Day Lewis; Dumas; Wilkie Collins; Walter Scott; and Conan Doyle: both in book form and on television.
A serialised version of Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe was run by the BBC for 8-11 year olds. We revelled in Antoine and Breal’s The Flashing Blade, despite its atrocious dubbing, and eagerly awaited the next episode. We ate up children’s dramas like Follyfoot Farm (based on Monika Dicken’s Cobbler’s Dream and the Black Beauty Series based on Sewell’s classic. We gathered around the set to watch Wilkie Collins’s The Moonstone and Nesbit’s The Phoenix and the Carpet.
At that age I was reading Creasey, Christie, Woodhouse, Wallace, Ballantyne, Asimov and some of Wells’s short stories for light reading.
Now we have Rowling, Meyer and a diluted version of Martin’s ‘A Song of Ice and Fire’ in the quirky Game of Thrones. Now we have Bob the Builder; In The Midnight Garden; Arthur; and the popular flaccid mentality to go along with them.
I can sink into the rich texture of Donaldson’s or Brooks’s tapestry or take comfort in the security blankets of Pratchett and Eddings.
I am struck suddenly as to why Rowling is so popular. She decants and dilutes for those who cannot stomach the richer wines, and thus appears original.
She may be an intelligent woman herself, but she writes for those too lazy to be challenged by literature and is thus an advocate for intellectual impotence: the erectile dysfunction of today’s society.
The lassitude is pandemic. When I was an infant you were encouraged to stop soiling your nappy as soon as possible. Now they manufacture handy pants which fit toddlers and up.
I cannot help but draw parallels.