Author: Gabriel Scorgie

The Novel Isn’t Dead—Please Stop Writing Eulogies

The 69th National Book Awards Ceremony will take place this Wednesday in New York City. Nominees for the Fiction award include Brandon Hobson’s novel Where the Dead Sit Talking, Rebecca Makkai’s The Great Believers and Sigrid Nunez’s The Friend—all excellent and acclaimed specimens of a literary genre that English novelist J. B. Priestley had called a “decaying literary form” even before Nelson Algren’s The Man With the Golden Arm won the inaugural National Book Award for Fiction back in 1950. Two decades later, postmodernist American author John Barth argued in The Literature of Exhaustion that the novel may have “by this hour of the world just about shot its bolt.” He won a National Book Award six years later for Chimera. More recently, Zadie Smith discussed her “novel nausea” while paraphrasing David Shields’ description of the crafted novel, “with its neat design and completist attitude,” as being “dull and generic.” Her most recent novel, Swing Time, made last year’s National Book Award longlist. None of these obituarists seem to agree on the novel’s hour of …

Real Art Is Bound to Cause Offence

Artists traditionally have faced a choice: stay true to their calling, trading financial security for intellectual freedom—or put art aside in favour of a steady paycheque and the stifling strictures that come with corporate life. But in the current era, something has changed. Artists now experience the worst of both worlds: They still struggle to make ends meet, while enduring all of the oppressive controls that come with selling out. One well-known recent example is that of Anders Carlson-Wee, the poet who denounced his own poem after being shamed by his editors at The Nation. Stephanie Burt and Carmen Giménez Smith had published Carlson-Wee’s poem, titled How-To, in July, but then had second thoughts, suddenly declaring it to be full of racist and ableist wrongthink. The poet, too, felt the need to beg for forgiveness, telling the world, “I am sorry for the pain I caused.” But this is just one piece of a larger trend. There is a concerted effort among many progressives to pre-empt artistic risk-taking. They want the artist to work on …