Guest Author, Trent Spriggs Discusses:Is the Great American Novel Dead, in response to Genji

Genji is an excellent read. You can definitely get a feel for the era, its sublime sensitivity principally through the poetry. Seidensticker’s version (translation) is a real treasure… I think it was the first of its kind, so they say… a written work that is also a lyric…. As opposed to the Illiad, an example of a fine oral tale. This work is immense and intricate…and available online in its entirety.

Star Wars was very much a novel on film. Its unusual structure gave it a narrative that kept it bound… It is awkward to actually see, in parts. The book would have been an unbelievable joy. Just as the Matrix as novel would have been. I think movies, and their truncated formats will reign supreme here in the US for some time.

The American novel is ‘history’, so to speak. Europeans and the Japanese routinely write great stuff, but I don’t think anything would resonate in the US. TV in either area would probably be less than enthralling… The ping ponging of online communication has left Americans a bit restless, mostly set apart as denizens of schmaltzy sub cultures. I myself love business tomes or spy novel pulp, hardly the elements capable of sintering concepts into knowledge.

The History Channel, 60 Minutes, or NPR all give people adequate doses of maturity, surreal dialogue, and faith, so the ‘new novels’ won’t be missed much. The Daily Show, Simpsons, or Glee are all so shocking or layered or nuanced slash illuminating that novels are like windows 95 to the average American psyche…I think John Waters had a lot to do with that…What we are now enjoying are books that are like yesteryears’ magazines, informative and detailed.

The novel, like jazz has dissipated. We can always find and listen to the familiar oldies, but the dynamic to produce anything like it, that spark and spontaneity is gone… Classical music suffered the same fate. Great singers have evolved to handle the ridiculous complexity of works written more than 100 years ago, but creating works like those originals requires an innocence that has been long lost. Pavoratti and Jessye Norman both breathe life into the bel canto’ in ways that the composers could have only dreamed of… I am sure that most composers were less than satisfied during their lifetimes…I have read the last work, Six Memos For the Next Millennium by Italo Calvino, the last great post-modern writer, and found it impenetrable… I think I will challenge following him tomorrow. Thanks for the inspiration only a muse can arouse…


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