I love literature, but I don’t love stories per se. I find nearly all the moves the traditional novel makes unbelievably predictable, tired, contrived, and essentially purposeless. It’s not clear to me what such narratives are supposedly revealing about the human condition.
We live in a post-narrative, post-novel world. Plots are for dead people. Novelly novels exist, of course, and whenever I’m on a plane, it’s all I see everyone reading, but they function for us as nostalgia: when we read traditional novels, we get to pretend that life is still coherent.
The comments thread has become a revolt against the very idea of Shields' post:
Is anyone else tired of Mr. Shields’ desperate and defensive attempts to justify his “manifesto”? Granted, he’s created enough controversy to move his product, so I’ll give him credit there. But grandiose statements like “The novel is dead” are just laughable and make it hard to take him too seriously.
I like collages. I like David Markson. I would hate a world that has only that to offer. Wake me when you’re done pretending this is a post-narrative world.
Thank God he’s not teaching fiction any more.
Ugh. Stop, collaborate and listen; Shields is back with the same old edition...
Saul Alinsky said it best: ‘Academic is just another word for irrelevant.’
I have never seen a blog comment in the style of Vanilla Ice before. Good show, Millions. Shields has also written a reading list for those who are interested in this whole post-narrative idea. It is much less controversial. This piece, by Edward Champion, is a wonderful refutation of Shields and his book. Thing is, Champion is still refuting Shields's book, and it came out in February. How many books demand refutation, almost four months later? Maybe Shields is on to something.