The Long, Slow Death of Avant Garde Fiction
The state of popular fiction, especially mainstream “literary fiction,” in the second decade of the twentieth century is one of complacency and uniformity. It’s as though someone filtered the concept of fiction and literary fiction through a sieve, and homogeneity is all that largely remains.
Literature has struggled since the advent of movies and television, with the introduction of interactive entertainment—what some people still call videos games—and the internet. In a culture marginalizing fiction and literature, the industry is rapidly transforming into a game of monkey-see monkey-do. In this world, the avant garde, historically on the margins, is being further marginalized—to the detriment of our culture.
Fiction and literary fiction in this hyper-real, digital age, an age in which the line between “reality” and “simulacrum” is vanishing, suffers the same existential crisis that visual art—paintings and sculptures—suffered with the advent of the camera.
Over the past two decades, films and television, interactive entertainment and the internet have collided with the nuances of everyday life. As a culture, we’ve moved from the digital age into a sort of hyper-digital age, a period in which we’re experiencing the merger of the digital realm and the physical realm. This new period is revolutionizing the way we communicate, and consume entertainment, even more so than it did a decade or two ago.
Unfortunately, fiction, especially literary fiction, zigged when it should have zagged. In lieu of revolutionizing the form, the way Picasso did with les Demoiselles D’avignon, the publishing industry instead chose to alter the delivery system, transitioning from hard copies to digital copies, without altering the form. That is, they’re in the process of changing their appearance—and nothing more. Continue reading