Friday, December 10, 2010

Prime Passage: The Din in the Head by Cynthia Ozick (2006)

 “…By the 1970s, the novel as the holy vessel of the imagination (itself having deposed poetry) was undone. Magazines dropped fiction. Notions of journalism as the equal of imaginative writing took hold (“the nonfiction novel” as pioneered by Truman Capote, replicated by Norman Mailer). Bohemians who had been willing enough to endure the romantic penury of cold-water walkups while sneering at popular entertainment were displaced by beatniks who were themselves popular entertainment. …

“With such radical (and representative) changes in the culture, and with High Art in the form of the novel having lost its centrality, the nature of ambition too was bound to alter. This is not to say that young writers today are no longer driven—and some may even be possessed—by the strenuous forces of literary ambition. Zeal, after all, is a constant, and so must be the pool, or the sea, of born writers. But the great engines of technology lure striving talents to television and Hollywood, or to the lighter varieties of theater, or (especially) to the prompt gratifications and high-velocity fame of the magazines, where topical articles generate buzz and gather no moss. The sworn novelists, who despite the devourings of the hour, continue to revere the novel (the novel as moss, with its leisurely accretions of character and incident, its disclosures of secrets, its landscapes and cityscapes and mindscapes, its idiosyncratic particularisms of language and insight)—these sworn novelists remain on the scene, if not on the rise.” p.136

Buy The Din in the Head here.