Wither Ambition?

Too few fiction writers write like they enjoy the process, like they’re having blast and are taking you along with them, like they have absolute command and are conducting you. So much of what I’ve read lately (published work, not my editing work) is stolid, plodding, boring.  It knows nothing of how sounds, images, rhythms work together to create something more than just plot-puppet A meeting plot-puppet B. It’s soggy white bread with the corners cut off.  Yet it’s published and marketed as great literature, stunning, original. It’s all over the cover. Welcome to sublurbia.

Where’s the ambition? Shrinking expectations? Even if there’s no play, where’s the depth, where’s that unique spark each of us has? ( We all have it, don’t we?)

What fiction has seemed masterly me in the past year?  Not much, but then I’ve read many friends’ books, nearly two dozen unpublished books, and too few on my must-read list. Michelle Butler Hallett was in command of her material in Double-Blind, and Lynn Coady’s stories in Hellgoing showed an easy, subtle control, but perhaps only my favourite fiction of the past year, Tamas Dobozy’s Seige 13, had that range I seek. Now I consider all three of these authors to be friends.  Would I have read these otherwise?  Don’t know.

Time to dive into what I want to read, shelves of urgently-purchased, waiting-for-the-right-moment titles, and what spurred this surly entry is a book I opened this morning, Gilbert Sorrentino’s The Moon in Its Flight. There’s mastery here. It doesn’t feel like a chore to pick it up.

(For the record, the book that impressed me most this past year is Kerry-Lee Powell’s poetry collection Inheritance. Is she a friend? Yes, and a good one. But more on that in a future entry.)

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