Rod Liddle (left) wrote in the Times back in January how contemporary fiction just doesn't hit the spot for him anymore, and it seems to me that the article is very well worth going back to.
... it dawned on me (that) I hadn’t actually finished a novel, any novel, for some considerable time. I couldn’t even remember the name of the last new novel I’d finished. Somehow, fiction had lost its power to enthral or inform.Liddle blames the publishing industry for wanting:
I immediately assumed that I was to blame, that I had become inured to the form itself and was no longer entranced by the act of immersing myself in someone else’s imagination. But a little later, it occurred to me that, frankly, there wasn’t an awful lot of imagination kicking around in contemporary fiction. It has become so broad, so general, so eager to please, so self-satisfied, so anxious to make itself relevant and attuned to the times, so shamelessly — and again, forgive me, I can think of no better phrase — middlebrow. In other words, exactly like journalism, except with some made-up names. And we have journalists for journalism, don’t we? Literary fiction, it seemed to me, had stopped doing what literary fiction does best: getting beneath the skin of a subject, to the viscera, without even always intending to so do. It had started being like every other form of mass entertainment, aiming wide and broad, hoping to alienate nobody.
... books with a big, thick, broad base and, preferably, an uplifting, aspirational motif ... Dark themes such as suicide are okay only if they’re dealt with in the friendly, accessible prose of a colour-supplement article about interior design or colonic irrigation. Leave out the overexuberant writing, what Steinbeck called the “hoop de doodle”; leave out literary devices that might unsettle the reader. Make it general — anything else we will deem to be a bit too much, self-indulgent.It's a sure-fire recipe, he insists, for bad literature, and reckons that the truly great writing these days is to be found in the non-fiction section ... or in France where publishers have resisted the great literary dumbing-down of the British and US literary scenes.
If I don't add a comment of my own at the moment, it's because I'm mulling it over. Once the cogitation is done, I will chuck in a thought or two of my own. (A nice blogger get-out!) You of course are bound to be more erudite.
(*Sorry for the horrendous overuse of brackets in this sentence, stylistically unforgivable! :-D)