For some time now, the status of the novel has been under threat, not just from technological developments like the Kindle, but from self-suffocation and overanalysis. In attempting to break free of the shackles of conventions, authors of contemporary fiction have pushed the novel to breaking point. Readers of modern literary fiction can often find themselves baffled by bewildering texts, devoid of plot or characterization, so-called novels that aren’t really novels and aren’t clear about what they are. Sometimes, it seems as though even the writers don’t know. So desperate are they to create something new and exciting, they’ve lost sight of why most people read books in the first place, and end up creating some weird and horrible mish-mash of documentary and memoir along with social commentary and whatever else comes to hand, all in convoluted plots about writing the book you’re reading that disappear into thin air midway through. These are the most frustrating sorts of books – and they’re not really novels, and to market them as such seems disingenuous.
Book reviewers in the press and on-line tend to be no help, and if anything compound the problem. Most of them are wannabe writers themselves, and use their reviews to show off their writing skills. And of course, they wouldn’t want to lose face by admitting they didn’t like a book that’s supposed to be clever, or, that the unthinkable happened and they didn’t get it. So the parade of books dressed in the emperor’s new clothes continues. For my money, the reviews posted on-line on Amazon and Goodreads by real readers who aren’t pretentious and who don’t have opinions that are clouded by self-interest are far more reliable and more easy to read too.
Then there’s academia. Academic writing makes the guff the reviewers spew out look positively straightforward. The analysis gets so bogged down in theory and the minutiae that all relation to the book that’s under discussion is lost. The prevalent style of academic writing seems designed primarily to obfuscate any trace of logical, linear argument, and for no other reason than to bewilder mere mortals with the density of language that says little more than ‘look how clever I am’. The emperor threw these clothes out a long time ago when they became threadbare and unfashionable. Stuck in its ivory tower with its head up its superior, self-satisfied ass, academia has failed to realise that the game’s up.
It’s for this reason that a recent crop of pseudo-intellectual smart-arse writers who think they’re ahead of the game by combining elements of criticism and commentary within their ‘novels’ – and I use the term loosely given the negligible semblance of plot and the general absence of characters you can believe in, let alone identify with – really are fulfilling their own prophecies regarding the death of the novel by spewing out such atrociously smug, self-indulgent, meaningless drivel. I mean, if you’re going to kill the novel, atrocious dross like these self-referential treatises are bound to do the trick. And, quel surprise, marginal as these authors may be, they’re getting noticed and building up cult followings because the critics are lavishing their abysmal turgid texts with gushing praise and their bands of cronies corralled together via social networking sites – first of all MySpace, and now Facebook – are on hand with sycophantic applause.
Nosnibor’s latest novel – the ironically (or perhaps appropriately) titled This Book is Fucking Stupid – is probably the worst offender of all the books I’ve seen to date. The story is bland and bot very well written with really dull characters who go nowhere, and it’s largely buried beneath endless pages of insertions, including reviews, academic criticism and lengthy passages of pointless commentary from the author. Some of these begin like memoir, and look like they might offer some useful insight into the mind of the writer, but they invariably descend into rants or a platform for something else, and the reader is left none the wiser as to his motivations. Consequently, I ended up with the opinion that the author is even more delusional and moronic than I had thought before, and any interest I may have had in him as a person had completely dissipated. I sincerely hope I never find myself stuck in a lift with this tedious, self-interested egotist who hides having precisely nothing to say behind endless layers of artifice and façade. The most pointless and pathetic attempt at a novel you’re likely to read. If you can honestly say you find something good about this book and can find the ‘point’ to it, you’re smarter than me. Or, more likely, you’re a pretentious asshole and you’re just pretending.
And if you’re loving my work, there’s more of the same (only different) at christophernosnibor.co.uk