Why most contemporary US and British literature sucks.

Discussion in 'Community Discussion' started by princealfie, Dec 22, 2006.

  1. princealfie macrumors 68030


    Mar 7, 2006
    Salt Lake City UT
    Okay, the Harry Potter folks made me throw down the gauntlet. I'm ready.

    Most of today's novels are lousy. For me, there are fewer and fewer novels worth reading or even challenging to the mind.

    During the past 3-5 years, there are only a handful of good American and British novels.

    William Trevor's The Story of Lucy Gault
    Thomas Pynchon's Against the Day
    Cormac McCarthy's The Road
    Cormac McCarthy's No Country for Old Men
    William Vollmann's Europe Central
    Ian McEwan's Saturday
    Jonathan Franzen's The Corrections
    Richard Ford's The Lay of the Land
    Ann Beattie's The Doctor's House
    Tom Wolfe's I am Charlotte Simmons

    And that's about it for me.

    Okay, and Harry Potter is way overrated. I will start my future kids on James Joyce's Dubliners and Samuel Beckett.
  2. Savings macrumors member

    Dec 16, 2006
    Speaking of overrated, poorly written books, The DaVinci code comes to mind. The writing style of that book was terrible! The book read like a Jerry Bruckheimer movie script. I just don't see how that particular book was so overwhelming popular, much like I didn't really seem to be as crazy about Harry Potter as most of the American populace. There's just better books out there than Harry Potter and the DaVinci code.
  3. princealfie thread starter macrumors 68030


    Mar 7, 2006
    Salt Lake City UT
    Dan Brown should be prosecuted for writing the worst garbage I ever read (the first pages are horrendous in Da Vinci Code)... another one is Michael Crichton. Horrible destroyers of literature.
  4. Blue Velvet Moderator emeritus

    Jul 4, 2004
    Nice to see that this professed love of true literature hasn't done much for standards of spelling and grammar. Also nice to see people reading, period...

    Being sniffy about others' reading preferences is posturing just for the sake of it. I pity the children forced to read Joyce when they'd rather be reading Harry Potter.
  5. thedude110 macrumors 68020


    Jun 13, 2005
    Hold up.

    Since the marriage of the printing press and mass marketing, most of all contemporary writing everywhere has sucked. Actually, most likely most all contemporary writing everywhere all the time has sucked. If we were in the 1920's right now, odds are you wouldn't be reading Woolf, Joyce and Stein.

    Dunno much about fiction, but here's a doorway into the contemporary poetry scene, anyway ...

    You should, 'cause those kids won't end up life-long readers. My students are reading these right now, and I had a kid come up to me today and say "Mister -- I read this book. I finished this book."

    That's a moment in his life, you know?
  6. clayj macrumors 604


    Jan 14, 2005
    visiting from downstream
    To paraphrase Theodore Sturgeon, most contemporary US and British literature sucks because most of EVERYTHING sucks.
  7. skytown205 macrumors newbie

    Dec 11, 2003
    Hmm....Sad, but partly true. I'd say there are a lot of well-written novels out there, but only a small handful that (as far as I can guess anyway!) I can see being really important (read: worth reading) twenty or thirty years from now.

    Out of your list, I loved "Saturday" (I suggest reading "Atonement," which is much different but just as good) and "The Corrections."

    The Canadian authors Margaret Atwood ("The Blind Assassin") and Alice Munro (pretty much anything by her) are fantastic, I think, and also recommended.

    I'd also add Philip Roth's "American Pastoral" to your list. But great to see this topic brought up in these forums--nice to get a little break from obsessing over my mac!
  8. mcarnes macrumors 68000


    Mar 14, 2004
    USA! USA!
    You need to get laid.
  9. clayj macrumors 604


    Jan 14, 2005
    visiting from downstream
    I'll be sure to mention that to my girlfriend next time I talk to her. :rolleyes:
  10. Ugg macrumors 68000


    Apr 7, 2003

    Writing prior to the invention of the printing press was limited to a very small number of educated and religious snobs. It was the printing press that began the process of the Reformation and its associated social upheavals. These social changes meant literature wasn't solely for the rich anymore.

    Fast forward a few hundred years to the Industrial Revolution and the resulting increase in educational levels and you'll see that even the poor could afford to read a book. That meant the market for literature was even greater. However, not everyone got off on reading some tosser's novel that alluded to every obscure Greek myth he could dig out of his mouldering library.

    It's true that the marketing bozos and the consolidation of booksellers have had a negative effect on the book market. Now, with internet publishing and affordable vanity publishing available to all, hopefully the market will become more democratic and a greater breadth of books will be available.

    There's a lot of good lit out there and anyone who limits themselves to unreadable classics is deluding themselves about the dearth of readable books.
  11. 0007776 Suspended


    Jul 11, 2006
    I actually liked The Da Vinci Code, but the only reason that it became so popular is because it got lots of free advertising by religious groups that were mad about the book. But there are some better books out there.
  12. OutThere macrumors 603


    Dec 19, 2002
    And your future kids will read approximately 0 books by their own accord, once they're old enough to defy you. :rolleyes:

    As far as good books go, I think that there have been some good books written recently. Your list seems to be a list of the books you personally liked.

    To quote myself from the harry potter thread you mention above (http://forums.macrumors.com/showthread.php?t=262473):

    I think there have been plenty of novels written lately that fit this description, whether or not they conform to the idiosyncratic rules of the academic world or not is debatable. Whether that matters or not is also debatable.

    Obviously contemporary literature can't be really popular to be considered worthwhile by some peoples' standards, which is funny, because some of what is considered 'great' literature from the past was hugely popular at the time. Is this a reflection of a change in global culture or a change in the skewed perceptions of literature snobs?
  13. Agent Smith macrumors 6502

    Agent Smith

    Mar 21, 2004
    Toronto, ON
    I really enjoyed reading David Mitchell's books (Ghostwritten, Cloudatlas, Number9Dream, Black Swan Green). An absolutely amazing writer. :)
  14. POHeerwig macrumors member

    Jan 4, 2006
    I disagree. Literature shouldn't be held to such stuffy, snobbish standards. Just as Theodor Seuss Geissel found a way to instill a love of reading in children with his Dr. Suess books, JK Rowling managed to pull off the same for teenagers (and even adults) all over the world, Shakespeare did it with plays, and Dan Brown through his controversial books, these authors have adults thinking and questioning and, moreover, reading. I find Carl Hiassen to be entertaining and hilarious...and even he has found his particular way to influence people to help stop the raping of the everglades.

    Seems to me that the literature is, in part, about influencing a culture. Roots is a good example of doing just that in the US. While your idea of the ultimate in "literature" standards might be lofty ideals, like it or not, they aren't the authors that are making the biggest cultural impacts.
  15. someguy macrumors 68020


    Dec 4, 2005
    Still here.
    I grew up reading R.L. Stine's "Goosebumps" books. Then my mother sold them all at a garage sale. Now, I wouldn't read a book to save my life.

    *cue flaming of Goosebumps books*
  16. RBMaraman macrumors 65816


    Jul 25, 2002
    Prospect, KY
    Thank you for expressing your opinion, but frankly I really don't give a crap what you think. Sorry for being so blunt, but I'm going to read what I want to read. I've never heard of any of the authors or books that you mentioned, so I can't comment on any of them. I bet that they may be some great books, but I'd rather read a story I can enjoy and get into.

    I loved the Da Vinci Code, and Michael Crichton is my favorite fiction writer.

    People reading anything is better than people reading nothing! I'd much rather see people reading what they love instead of not reading at all.

    Last year, I picked up a paperback copy of the Da Vinci Code, mostly because I was planning to see the movie and thought I should at least read the book. It was the first book I had read for recreation in probably five years. I couldn't put it down! I read it completely in 2 days, something I hadn't done that since I was a kid. It made me realize how much fun reading is. Now I read 2 to 3 books a month.

    So, would you rather have people not reading at all, or people reading things you may hate but others thoroughly enjoy?
  17. Mord macrumors G4


    Aug 24, 2003
    Pratchett is consistantly good but other than that nothing modern interests me that much, I never did read harry potter usually because I was reading something more interesting at the time.

    As for being sniffy about what others read it's frankly childish, you don't read to try to make out that your intellectually superior you read what you enjoy and if someone enjoys a book you consider trashy why ruin that for them just to make oneself look like a twunt.

    Try selecting a random period of 3-5 years say two centuries ago and I highly doubt you'd find more than three decent books, people always complain about the present being crap because they look back on all the good points of the last couple of decades/centuries and see all the good stuff, people have been complaining that stuff is not like it used to be for millennia.
  18. AP_piano295 macrumors 65816

    Mar 9, 2005
    Ohhhh i get it your a snob who likes to think he's superior because he reads important or significant books, or am I missing it? Now I'm guessing your going to come back with something like "I'm not a snob I'm just highlighting the actually good recent novels, I have no problem with what other people read" but If that was your only motivation you probably would have made a post like "check out these books theyre really great, some of the best I've read in years"
  19. FleurDuMal macrumors 68000


    May 31, 2006
    London Town
    As someone said above, sneering about other peoples reading habits is just a form of posturing. Very, very shallow indeed.

    I only read classics really these days, but that is more to do with my own ignorance of literature than anything else. I get very little time to read for pleasure, so when I do I just go for a classic because I don't want to be disappointed, not because I take a sneering attitude to modern lit. I don't know enough about literature to actually make an informed choice on the modern stuff :p
  20. AP_piano295 macrumors 65816

    Mar 9, 2005
    LOL I love Goosebumps how many of those were written? Like 200 or something.

    Also worth a shout out is Dr. Seus :)
  21. dllavaneras macrumors 68000


    Feb 12, 2005
    Caracas, Venezuela
    That makes two of us! I got about 30 of those books from my best friend. Best darn gift I got in grade school.

    Personally, I don't read much literature (apart from scientific textbooks) because of the lack of free time. In those rare moments I prefer classics; I'll never get tired of Kipling's The Jungle Book or the adventures of Sherlock Holmes.

    And I completely agree, bashing other people's book choices is a little childish
  22. savanahrose macrumors 6502a


    Jul 31, 2006
    greer SC
    It sucks because MARK TWAIN AND CHARLES DICKENS are no longer with us.
  23. savanahrose macrumors 6502a


    Jul 31, 2006
    greer SC

    I read that book just to see what others were seeing in it and about the controversy. I thought it was boring. what was the controversy reallly about? Who cares. We just know about Christ from what we read in the bible and that is from what others have written? Did they leave anything out? More than likely they did.

    As for Harry Potter, it is an escape book. To go somewhere different. Some place that just is not real. But you got to love the characters. I love them.
  24. applemacdude macrumors 68040


    Mar 26, 2001
    Over The Rainbow
    its nice to see kids reading at least HP instead of every other negative thing they could be doing instead..

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