Monday, December 13, 2010

Grumpy old man

by Jim

Little known fact: I love crotchety old people. One of my goals in life is to survive to an age where I can angrily mutter, “Kids these days!” It’s just the kind of righteous anger that I find endlessly entertaining and endearing.

So imagine my pleasure when reading Jonathan Yardley’s “Best of 2010” list from the Washington Post. Yardley has included only two novels on his list this year which “reflects [his] disenchantment with what passes for American literary fiction these days.” Interestingly, both novels are historical and deal with the impact of the political on the personal. He then recommends three nonfiction books about World War II. So…he has his specific interests.

“Kids these days!” I imagine him muttering to his computer. “With their fakakta ideas about writing about the present! When I was their age…”

It’s a charmingly inane piece that reeks of snobbery and is deeply out of touch. Such a cloistered consideration indicates a man who is very cozy living within his self-proscribed boundaries. Or maybe he has a real argument and I’m just being ageist. Thoughts?

One thing that makes me grumpy in the present is the news that Jersey Shore’s JWoww landed a book deal—the third for a cast member of the show. I thought we all knew that the only book that needed to come out of this show was Snooki’s!

So tell me: is American fiction dead? And what makes you grumpy about the current publishing environment?


  1. I've found that underneath that crotchety coat, there's just someone waiting to step out for a moment of being appreciated. And underneath your mild skepticism, I think I hear a bit of that appreciation?


  2. Although I could do with a little less Jersey Shore anything, I think the curmudgeons are just eager to know they're still in the game. And when we all get to be a certain age, yesterday looks far more appealing than the current harsh reality.

  3. Jim, I hear you.
    In my days vampires where bloodthirsty, not shining and beautiful and peaceful folks.
    In my days we worshipped high fantasy, not the urban fantasy that swarm all over the shelves.
    And see, I'm being grumpy but I'm only 25 - what makes me believe that we can grumble about anything we dislike. There's no need to be "crotchety old people" (I loved the metaphor); to be an old nag, you just need not to try to keep with the world's pace - things changes pretty fast.
    But you know what? I read the shining vampires. It's not my thing, but at least I know for sure, not second-handed. And there's actually good urban fantasy out there, and really crappy Tolkien-plagiarists in high fantasy.
    About Jersey Shore's JWoww's book deal, I'm sure it'll be as fake as her b**bs, so there's another ghostwriter who's going to make some money - good for them!


  4. Limited budgets
    Tough acquisition meetings
    Celebrity thieves.

  5. I agree. Snooki's is surely a timeless tale for the ages, but JWoww has nothing to say. Now, that said, if it turns out she's a call girl, has an eating disorder or a secret criminal past, then I want to know ALL about it...with full-color photos!!!

  6. Like Anon @ 4:34, I find myself turning into a grumpy curmudgeon on certain topics, and I'm only 26. We have a tendency to romanticize the past, and we only remember the parts we appreciated, not the vast amounts of crap that also came out at the same time.

    I don't think American fiction is dead, but I don't think fiction in the 2010s is different than fiction in the 1960s or the 1940s or the 1890s. However, Jersey Shore books do make me grumpy. I'm just not that interested in celebrity books.

  7. American fiction is not dead; it merely sleeps and dreams, like Great Cthulhu in his sunken stronghold of R'Lyeh. When the stars are right it will awaken and the world will tremble.

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  9. Jersey Shore cast members writing books. Why are there no Bad Girls Club alumn seizing this opportunity?!? Does Natalie realize she could run LA and the publishing world?

    Anon: Um, vampires don't shine now...they sparkle. ;O)

  10. I was reading "Mockingjay" by Suzanne Collins yesterday on the bus into work, and I nearly started crying twice. I've read so many novels in the past year that have moved me like crazy, and I've been telling everyone I know to buy them...and a lot of them are. In my opinion, fiction isn't dead. Not by a long shot.

    The market is dictated both by what is available to consumers and what the consumers buy. If Publishers continue to put out junk, there will be consumers who buy it, because it's there. It's not too different than people who want to go see a movie on Friday and choose "Alvin and the Chipmunks 2: The Squeakquel," because it's there. It's sort of a vicious circle. Ultimately, that cycle can be broken by publishers who take risks and put out beautiful work. Thankfully, it still happens, because I was getting teary on the bus yesterday. It is not hopeless!

  11. It's crazy how many celebrity memoirs are out there now. Though, when you read the agent blogs, many of them are looking for just that. I guess you can't blame them -- those books sell. But, well, ugh. The 15 minutes of fame is much longer than it used to be. Another glaring reminder, I guess, of our disconnected, celebrity-obsessed culture.

  12. Tracy, you're right, they do sparkle. There you see how much I loved it, lol. ^_^
    As the Hunger Games, I'm waiting to see if they appear under my Christmas Tree...

    By the way, I'm Eev. ;o)

  13. grumpy gene11/10/11 6:08 PM

    As a certified, charter member of the Grumpy Old Men Group, I resent being smoozed by the younger generation, who, at best, have no concept of age and wisdom.

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