People who presume, not entirely unreasonably, that “literary fiction” represents a value judgment, fail to understand that “literary fiction” is just a marketing category (coined in the 1970’s by publishing and book retailers) characterized by slower pacing, stylized prose, introspection and a focus on interior life over exterior action, a focus on character over plot. What they are not, though, are inherent markers of quality.
A lot of modern literature is nothing more than some anti-intellectual word salad: incoherent ramblings of some over-educated academics using words like, “deconstruct, chiasmus, allusions, doppelganger, and hubris”. The result is sometimes an endless exercise in rhetorical peacocking, a participation in a general conspiracy of mutually displayed approvals. The chaotic and pointless storytelling that has besieged modern literature has no other function or purpose then to signal who is in and who is out.
A good pseudo-intellectual knows how to give off an air of erudition without having to put forth too much of an effort. A big part of that is knowing what books to carry around and display in public. For those of you smart enough to want to appear smart, below I’ve provided a couple of novels to be seen with. Bonus points if you are seen actually READING them, but don’t feel compelled to do so – it can be seen as pretentious.
- Finnegan’s Wake; the incoherent ramblings of a lunatic who spent 17 years of his life to make his prose as incomprehensible as possible. Those who’re criticizing it are morons with not enough brainpower to understand Joyce’s attempt to recreate the experience of sleep and dreams.
- The Brothers Karamazov; literary masterpiece by Fyodor Dostoevsky that spreads the lives of three Russian brothers over 824 pages. Although Dostoevsky makes fun of the “clever people” who jump from one popular idea to another without caring about the truth, all kinds of intellectuals believe it is the greatest book in all literature.
- Atlas Shrugged; Rand’s impact on contemporary libertarian thought has been considerable and often engenders a lifelong obsession with its unbelievable heroes, leading to an emotionally stunted, socially crippled adulthood, unable to deal with the real world. In the animated comedy Futurama, it appears among the library of books flushed down to the sewers to be read only by grotesque mutants.
- Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance; a fictional autobiography in which Robert M. Pirsig rightfully questions the place of logic as the absolute criterion for the validity of an argument in order to replace it with an even shakier Metaphysics of Quality. It’s completely in line with the contemporary tendency toward solitary thought and over-analysis, while avoiding the problems in front of you.
- This list is far from complete, but feel free to contribute or comment to it …