Nostalgia is a seductive liar

So I was perusing Tumblr this week and stumbled across a question from one person I follow to another: “Curious about something: I often have this attitude towards contemporary fiction. I’m reading Steinbeck now with great joy. Are there current writers that are worth it?”

Now, this isn’t the first time I’ve come across this attitude from fellow readers. I suppose there’s something natural to looking back on books written fifty or a hundred years agoβ€”let alone Shakespeareβ€”and seeing in them something you want to believe hasn’t been replicated or improved upon since. At the same time, really? Should it not strike all of us as ludicrous to suggest that the art of writing fiction somehow disappeared in the 21st century, or that people born after, say, 1975 are somehow inherently incapable of producing literature of the same quality as John Steinbeck?

I could also argue the other side hereβ€”that upon reflection, books like The Great Gatsby, or Catcher in the Rye, aren’t really that good. (Confession: I couldn’t even get through Catcher in the Rye. I know; I’m sorry!) But that’s not nearly as important as the fact that even without shitting on traditionally celebrated classical authors, the 21st century has still produced some bombass fiction, and some incredibly talented and prolific people upon whom I can only hope silver-clad space-dwelling humans of the 23rd century will look back and say, “Man, remember when people could write like that?”

Which brings me to Jonathan Franzen.

Continue reading “Nostalgia is a seductive liar”