Another Lost Generation Finds Itself
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  • Anthony

    “You have to avoid the temptation to become an empty suit” – similar to avoiding the characterization: “there’s no ‘there’ there.”

    Applause and encouragement for young people intense and committed to the written word (cultural/esthetic, etc.).

  • Jack Burden

    This excellent commentary put me in mind of Robert Penn Warren’s “Blackberry Winter”. Thank you for reminding me it is time for a reread.

  • gs

    The New Inquiry, they call their journal.

    I googled these lines of Housman:

    Young is the blood that yonder
    Succeeds to rick and fold,
    Fresh are the form and favour
    And new the minted mould:
    The thoughts are old.

  • Kenny

    “You do not have to be a bohemian to have something to say — but society needs its nonconformists … ”

    But Mr. mead, what happens when the nonconformists are also politically incorrect? Ah, then people like you freak out.

    And as you know (or should know), the truth is no defense against charges of political incorrectness.

    Once you square the the circle of truth and open discussiuon with political correctness, then you can talk with credibility of the value of nonconformist thought.

  • WigWag

    “America needs people who write and think out of passion for something other than tenure, and this NYT article tells of a group of young people who are doing just that.” (Walter Russell Mead)

    One thing that helps is if you can write a proper sentence. I am still trying to learn the skill myself. The young people that Professor Mead is referring to would probably benefit from learning how to do it.

    One excellent place to learn how to draft a compelling sentence can be found here,

    http://www.amazon.com/How-Write-Sentence-Read-One/dp/0061840548

  • Walter Sobchak

    What struck me is that they were still regurgitating the post modern bovine excrement that their professors feed them. Both they and the worshipful NYTimes writer thought that those performances were evidence that they were true intellectuals. I think it is evidence that their fancy Ivy League colleges had destroyed their ability to think independent thoughts.

  • Toni

    The impediment, I think, will be the latter-day Academy, which consists of critics and professors who still try to dictate what High Literary Art is.

    I once saw on Book TV (CSPAN-2 on weekends) a panel on the future of the novel, or some such. When attendees tried diffidently to point out that contemporary haute literature lacked reader appeal, the panel scoffed.

    As far as I know, the latter-day Academy still adores Joyce and Faulkner. Nobody tries to write like Joyce and Faulkner these days for good reason. I was given Ford Maddox Ford’s The Good Soldier (1915) as a gift and was electrified by it. It was a very much precursor to 20th- and 21st-century fiction of the sort people voluntarily read.

    The problem is that professors give students a template for what fiction ought to be, and then critics praise fiction that fits the template. I was recently tempted to read The Free World, by David Bezmozgis, who was named one of the New Yorker’s 20 Best Authors Under 40. The book is a New York Times Notable Book for 2011. Naturally, it became a Times best-seller.

    Then I realized it would be yet another downer. Nihilistic, relativistic, etc. The Good Soldier was a downer, too, but it’s nearly a century old. The latter-day Academy nonetheless cheers and rewards Bezmozgiz.*

    I won’t be surprised if Academy-trained writers produce Academy-approved fiction. The salon/bookstore described in the Times sounds like a left-liberal echo chamber. (Though I would love to be surprised. Maybe one of these aspirants will rebel and launch a true literary revolution.)

    Stephen King put the 21st-c. challenge well in his speech accepting the 2003 National Book Award for Fiction:

    “Tokenism is not allowed. You can’t sit back, give a self satisfied sigh and say, “Ah, that takes care of the troublesome pop lit question. In another twenty years or perhaps thirty, we’ll give this award to another writer who sells enough books to make the best seller lists.” It’s not good enough. Nor do I have any patience with or use for those who make a point of pride in saying they’ve never read anything by John Grisham, Tom Clancy, Mary Higgins Clark or any other popular writer.

    “What–do you think you get social or academic brownie points for deliberately staying out of touch with your own culture? Never in life, as Capt. Lucky Jack Aubrey would say. And if your only point of reference for Jack Aubrey is the Australian actor Russell Crowe, shame on you.”

    So far, King remains a token.

    * Author-approved bio on Amazon:

    David Bezmozgis is an award-winning writer and filmmaker. David’s stories have appeared in numerous publications including The New Yorker, Harpers, Zoetrope All-Story, and The Walrus. His first book, Natasha and Other Stories, was published in 2004 in the US and Canada and was subsequently translated into fifteen languages. Natasha was a New York Times Notable Book, one of the New York Public Library’s 25 Books to Remember for 2004, and an Amazon.com Top 10 Book for 2004. Natasha was nominated for the Guardian First Book Award (UK), the LA Times First Book Award (US), and the Governor General’s Award (Canada). It won the Toronto Book Award and the Commonwealth Writer’s Prize for First Book.

    He has been a performer at The New Yorker Festival (2005 & 2009), The UCLA Armand Hammer Museum (2007), and the Luminato Festival (2008). His work has been broadcast on NPR, BBC, and the CBC, and his stories have been anthologized in The Best American Short Stories 2005 & 2006.

    In 2006, David was a screenwriting fellow at the Sundance Labs where he developed his first feature, Victoria Day. The film premiered in competition at the Sundance Film Festival in 2009, had a theatrical release in Canada, and received a Genie Award nomination for Best Original Screenplay.

    In the summer of 2010, David was included in The New Yorker’s 20 Under 40 issue, celebrating the twenty most promising fiction writers under the age of forty.

    David has been a Guggenheim Fellow, a MacDowell Fellow, and a Dorothy and Lewis B. Cullman Fellow at the New York Public Library. In the fall of 2011, he will be a fellow at the Harvard/Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study.

    The Free World, David’s first novel, was published in April 2011 in the U.S. Canada, the UK, and Holland. Subsequent translations will appear in Germany, Italy, France, Israel and Spain.

    Born in Riga, Latvia, David immigrated to Toronto with his parents in 1980.

  • Toni

    Um…don’t these people toss around ideas received from and enforced by the latter-day Academy? Meaning doctrinaire left-liberal humanities professors, media critics and foundations (Guggenheim etc.)?

    Meaning people who would rather pen their mother’s obituary than try to communicate with ordinary readers? God bless ’em if they wind up igniting a real literary revolution, but first they need to learn to think for themselves.

    I think one of the most brilliant and inventive writers today is Neil Gaiman. (He also brilliantly narrates most of his own audiobooks.) I doubt he’d know a post-structuralist if one bit him on the nose.

  • The Mystery “While ‘Bloodlines’ was GREAT, it does feel as tugohh Mead is recycling general story lines, so for me, there weren’t many surprises. I had the whodunit figured out before I was halfway through the novel. There are several similarities between new characters and old (by old, I mean dead). But I think she plays those up on purpose, like a little deja vu. Which also makes me curious if she draws a parallel story line in ‘Bloodlines’ on purpose to reinforce the idea that humans and Moroi aren’t so different.” —Jennifer, TheBawdyBookBlog.com

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