Little Lezbos and the Pointlessness of Modern Prose

One of the best, most vicious criticisms I’ve read of modern literature was B.R. Myers’s essay in the Atlantic: A Reader’s Manifesto (later expanded to a short book of the same title); the magazine piece is behind a paywall, but I’m sure you can find it.).  He identifies, with copious examples, the main failings of modern prose.  In a word, it’s style-over-substance.  Modern writing is chock full of weird images — “furious dabs of tulips stuttering in gardens” — that serve no purpose other than calling attention to themselves.  It’s “original,” all right — can dabs be furious, or stutter? — but it doesn’t add anything to the sentence, yet alone the story (here it is in context, if you don’t believe me).

That was 2001, alas, and most of Myers’s examples came from the late 80s and early 90s.  The rot is considerably more advanced now — witness this item, via the Ace of Spades book thread, that Little Women is getting a “graphic novel” makeover, in which  “the March family is blended, multiracial and LGBTQ inclusive, with updates making it resonant to an even wider swath of today’s young readers.”

The AoS crew makes the obvious comments: Leftists can’t create, they can only destroy; they can’t leave anything well enough alone, because the past is a different country and it’s chock full of badthinkers thinking wrongthoughts.  But nobody seems to mention the obvious reason Leftists can’t create anything: They’re not really people.

I’m not trying to dehumanize my enemies here (well, ok, not just that).  I mean it.  Fully-formed, self-actualized individuals — guys and gals on the top rung of Maslow’s Hierarchy, or at least gunning for it — are, you know, individuals.  With hobbies and interests and tastes and preferences and the ability, and willingness, to think for themselves.  Leftists have none of these things.  They live in footnotes — if they haven’t seen a Rachel Maddow special on it or read a Vox hot take on it, they don’t know what to think about an issue.  I could fail their entire lives for plagiarism.

I can give you an example from literature.  Well, actually, I can’t — I can give you an example from the absence of literature.  Most readers of serious littra-chuh, you’ll agree, are college-educated.  Now, college is such a weird, hermetic world that it should be easy pickings for the kind of tragically hip, shit-flinging little deconstructionist brats who write modern littra-chuh.  And yet, there are no “college novels.”  I can think of three: Moo, by Jane Smiley; The Handmaid of Desire, by John L’Heureux; I am Charlotte Simmons, by Tom Wolfe.  None of whom, you’ll note, are wunderkinds (Jane Smiley is 68; the others are in their 80s), and none of whom is exactly hot stuff on the literary scene anymore (Wolfe is actually something of a conservative).  You’ll also note that none of these was written later than 2004, and that none of them are very good.

Again, the reason for this is that college people, being the left wing of the Left Wing, aren’t really people at all.  Let’s give these kids the benefit of the doubt, and stipulate that they have all the tools to be good novelists — sharp powers of observation, an ear for dialogue, wide experience, a knack for turning a phrase, etc. (I know, it’s a big stretch, but please bear with me).  Let’s then say they turn their good-novelist tools on academia.  What could they possibly write about?

Again, these are people whose lives should come with a bibliography.  Inside their weird little world, the feminist Marxists have longstanding beef with the Marxist feminists, but to anyone who isn’t going up for tenure, this stuff makes a tempest in a teapot look like the Red Spot on Jupiter.  They try to screw each other over, all the time and in every way (literally and metaphorically), but the stakes are microscopic — just as the losing candidate in one of our “elections” just goes on to a nice cushy lobbyist job, so the loser of any and all faculty battles still goes home to his gated community, his Mercedes, and his $99K-a-year lifetime guaranteed employment.  There’s more dramatic tension in a Punch-and-Judy show.

As with the ivory tower, so with the rest of Lefty-land.  They spend their entire lives making sure the real world never intrudes, so where could an author find a legitimate crisis to explore?  I could write you a hyperrealistic novel about the ivory tower, but nobody would believe the characters are real.

Thus, Jo, Meg, and the rest of the Little Women need to be made over into LGBTGIFWhatever.  Otherwise, our modern prose masters would have nothing to say.

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6 thoughts on “Little Lezbos and the Pointlessness of Modern Prose

    1. Severian Post author

      It was ok. It probably suffered from high expectations — Tom Wolfe is going to roast college hookup culture? YES!!! I expected The Bonfire of Skull and Bones’ Vanities. It wasn’t. An ok book, all in, but…

  1. Nate Winchester

    I could write you a hyperrealistic novel about the ivory tower, but nobody would believe the characters are real.

    Doesn’t mean you shouldn’t. Could make you some decent side income. Go for it!

    This is what we were talking about the other day (and JBP loves to note too). They can only make propaganda, the art must serve the message. Since it’s always the same message, it all starts to read the same (“Yet another tale of oppression of X by White Males). Since it’s all reading the same, they have to decorate the prose more and more to try and stand out. It’s all rather predictable.

  2. Anonymous White Male

    You could have talked about modern popular music and used basically the same verbiage. I would have to say arts in general. Artistic Creativity seems to follow arcs in history. Anonymous Conservative would apply r/K theory.

  3. nightfly

    I had the grave misfortune of having read Moo after my city-sophisticated aunt snorted that Tolkien wasn’t literature, and I should try a real book like Jane Smiley’s. I would rather read an actual milk carton than revisit Smiley’s book again – not only was it not nearly the equal of anything of Tolkien’s, it was far the inferior of a book I own from sportswriter Dick Friendlich, who wrote a whole series of sports-based fiction from the 50s-70s. A lot of those were set in colleges, including the one I have, Line Smasher.

    It’s not just prose, though. About a week ago a link to this essay came across my Twitter TL: Clive Davis on Ezra Pound’s Cantos. Pound died the year I was born, so we’re talking a long way off – and many of the critiques Myers made are also shared by Davis. And I am also reminded in these of Strunk and White grousing in the famed Elements of Style about Walt Whitman: “Spontaneous me!” he cried, letting loose hordes of uninspired imitators.

    Add to that Chesterton’s well-known remark about reformers and knowing why a thing was done before undoing it, and a distinct pattern emerges, yes?

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