If what’s always distinguished bad writing—flat characters, a narrative world that’s cliched and not recognizably human, etc.—is also a description of today’s world, then bad writing becomes an ingenious mimesis of a bad world. If readers simply believe the world is stupid and shallow and mean, then Ellis can write a mean shallow stupid novel that becomes a mordant deadpan commentary on the badness of everything. Look man, we’d probably most of us agree that these are dark times, and stupid ones, but do we need fiction that does nothing but dramatize how dark and stupid everything is? In dark times, the definition of good art would seem to be art that locates and applies CPR to those elements of what’s human and magical that still live and glow despite the times’ darkness. Really good fiction could have as dark a worldview as it wished, but it’d find a way both to depict this world and to illuminate the possibilities for being alive and human in it.
This afternoon I had the great pleasure of interviewing Carey Wallace and Jill Lamar, two remarkably creative women with deep insight into creativity, faith, and the world of publishing. Carey’s first novel, The Blind Contessa’s New Machine, will be released by Viking Penguin this summer. Jill is a senior executive at Barnes & Noble who directs their Discover Great New Writers program.
We had a fabulous conversation about fiction, story, what helps artists create (hint: too much money is actually a bad idea), and how Christians can create excellent art of all kinds. Fortunately the conference call, sponsored by Wedgwood Circle, was recorded. If you care about art, writing, and faith, it’s absolutely worth an hour of your time. You can listen here (free registration is required). Enjoy. (I’m sure of one thing: by the end, you will want to read Carey’s new book when it comes out in July.)