Note To Lev Grossman: You Should Probably Read More

by Bob Sassone

I’m a little late on this, Lev Grossman’s search for the writer that is the “voice of this generation” in Time. But it’s worth discussing, if only for its cluelessness.

Grossman’s main point: there are no young writers worth reading.

Stunning, no? What the hell is he talking about? He starts off the column by noting that famous writers like Jonathan Franzen, David Foster Wallace, Jonathan Lethem and Michael Chabon are in their 40s, as if this proves anything. Who said that any of these writers were supposed to be the voice of a generation? I doubt any of these guys try to position themselves as the voice of anything, except themselves. Besides, aren’t voices of a generation usually picked after that generation has passed?

Grossman says “but if Wallace, Franzen, et al aren’t the leading young novelists anymore, who are?” Were Wallace and Franzen ever a “leading young novelist?” Franzen has written three novels (the last one several years ago), Wallace has written one.

“And if you listen closely, you’ll start to wonder if the current generation has a voice at all.”

Again, what is he talking about? Has he even read anything by young writers? All the people he mentions in the piece are in their late 20s, 30s, or 40s. And it’s all the same names that everyone mentions (Eggers, Lethem, Chabon, Whitehead, Krauss, Danticat, Shtengart, Zadie Smith). It’s almost as if he wants the piece to be in-depth, but then he just lists all the same authors that everyone in the book universe talks about. Lev, there is a world beyond what’s on the “new trade paperback” table at Borders, a world beyond the writers you have to read because they are famous and “hip.”

Grossman also talks about how books are getting shorter. Yeah, because heaven forbid someone writer a good, short book instead of a doorstop. James Sallis’ Drive is better than Infinite Jest.

I just dont think that Grossman even knows what the point of his piece is. If he wants an answer to who the “voice of a generation” is, it’s no one, and everyone. The way the world is now, with so many entertainment options and blogs and everything else, I’d say everyone is the voice. And when Bret Easton Ellis says in the piece that the best books of this generation (this generation? What generation is he talking about? Is it the same generation as Grossman? I thought he was talking about younger writers??) are The Corrections, The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, and The Fortress of Solitude, I’m offended. Someone else confusing “size” and “importance” with “good.” Maybe they’re fine novels, but they’re not the best books of any generation. They aren’t even the best books released the year they were released.


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