Fiction reveals truth that reality obscures. – Ralph Waldo Emerson
I recently read the article “Where Have All the Mailers Gone” by Lee Siegel declaring that fiction is dead. Now I’m wondering if I need to have a funeral service for my stack of to-read books. Also if I don’t have a non-fiction story to write, should I put down my pen (actually my keyboard) and look for something else to do?
Siegel says, “The practice is no longer a vocation. It has become a profession, and professions are not characterized by creative mischief.”
According to Dictionary.com, the first definition of vocation is, “a particular occupation, business or profession, calling.” The first definition for profession is, “a vocation requiring knowledge of some department of learning or science.” The second definition is, “any vocation or business.”
Excuse me if I’m a little slow, but I don’t see a difference between vocation and profession. The words seem interchangeable. Is he trying to say writers are only in it for the money and not as a creative outlet? If so, I think he is sadly out of touch with ninety-nine percent of authors.
He also writes, “But with the exception of a few ambitious and obsessively competitive-fiction writers and their agents and editors, no one goes to a current novel or story for the ineffable private and public clarity fiction once provided.”
Once again, I’m not sure what that statement means. I “go to” fiction for the enjoyment of reading interesting and entertaining novels, both old and new. If while I’m reading, I’m introduced to an unfamiliar world or identify on some level with the characters or their plight, that’s an added bonus. Some of my book selections might be from the New York Times bestseller list while other are from lesser known or newly emerging authors. The status or ambition of the author is not a contributing factor to my enjoyment level.
Another of his statements, "The most interesting, perceptive and provocative writers of our moment write narrative nonfiction." I know there are some excellent non-fiction books out there, but whether they’re better than current fiction is a matter of preference. I know my husband reads mostly non-fiction while I read mostly fiction, but neither of us opposes tackling a good book out of our usual genre.
Siegel remarks that fiction is, "a museum-piece genre most of whose practitioners are more like cripplingly self-conscious curators or theoreticians than writers." That certainly doesn’t sound very flattering toward fiction and those of us who like writing it, but I guess he has a right to his opinion.
My opinion is that fiction is alive and well, and today’s authors are as talented as ever. Therefore, I don’t think I’ll need that funeral service for my unread books. I don't plan to retire my keyboard either.
What do you think of Lee Siegel’s allegations? Do you think fiction is dead?
Thanks for stopping by today. I hope to see you next Monday.
Tags: Ralph Waldo Emerson, Lee Siegel, fiction is dead, profession, vocation,