Porn is the secret of my future success

Excerpted from article by Lydia Millet in Salon:

I've spent years writing books. Novels, no less. And for what?
I'm turning my hand to the one thing that pays. Sex

lydia_millet2-620x412It seems to me that the time for subtlety, in our American life, has passed. Do we look for subtlety in news media nowadays? In pop music? In fashion? In TV, movies? Even in visual art, is subtlety what we seek out and richly reward? Do we seek delicate phraseology in politics or other forms of public life?

We do not.

Why, then, is literary fiction, that boutique culture where I’ve set up my modest shop, such a stubborn holdout? One thing: sheer arrogance! We offer no popcorn, no concessions of any kind, not the Raisinets, not the sour gummy worms, not the Junior Mints. We offer no booming sound system. We offer no beautiful actors. We offer no dance performances and only the most minimal costuming. We certainly don’t offer libations. Not even wine or beer. Much less cocktails. Strictly BYOB.

Black words on a white page. We figure we can get away with that. Laughable. Honestly. No wonder only a handful of us carve out a living from this activity. Give us a few years, we’ll have to cast our lot in with the poets. Those poor saps. No one bothered to tell them about Elvis. Aretha Franklin. The Beatles. David Bowie or Prince, RIP. Man, even Taylor Swift! Guys, newsflash. These people took your jobs. You’re done. Go start a commune in Saskatchewan. Grow mung beans. Do something useful. Jesus.

Sometimes the folks in Hollywood will make a movie from one of our books, or say a TV show. And most times, when this happens, they remove the subtlety — that shit doesn’t make bank. …

la-et-jc-lydia-millet-mermaids-in-paradise-fil-001So we’ve got the unmoving words on the page. That’s the first black mark against us. Second: do we get to the point? How soon? Here’s the answer: no. We don’t get to the point, not for 200 pages at least. Sometimes 3,600, if we’re Knausgaard. At writing workshops they taught us to show not tell — well, showing takes time. We paint a slow picture. You can see the brushstrokes. We don’t get to the point, and sometimes when we do our readers don’t notice, in fact. It’s so couched in nuance it can fly right over a person’s head. What was that you said? I couldn’t quite make it out.

Third, sound bites. We don’t have them. No pull quotes. No celebrity names. Few if any pictures. The list of what we don’t have is a long one. Our tools for captivation are few, and often ungainly.

Which is why I’ve settled on porn, come to a decision that my next book after this one will be devoted to relentless, often hardcore pornography. I can’t give you an exact preview here on the pages of Salon, of course: this is a decent website. Plus that would be a spoiler. …

[I]n literary fiction there’s the chronic problem of subtlety, which doesn’t rear its head in porn. In porn, not only is subtlety not, you know, there, but no one says it should be. No one says, Oh, that porn you wrote is lacking in nuance, that porn is way too on the nose, can you just go a little lighter on the hairy cunts and spurting jizz? No one critiques you for missing the mark with a metaphor, for example, or for inconsistency of character.

I advise you to go and read the full article (I’ve left out most of the fun and depravity).

I in many ways agree with the author (whom I have not read .. yet). My sneaking feeling is that very few new writers of what is unfortunately called literary fiction actually get read by any significant part of the reading population. Certain writers, especially those who once won an award or received a glowing review in the New York Times, collect a loyal following and in no time at all become almost canonic, no matter what drivel they put out as the years go by. Let’s face it: in the history of literature outside of academia, what is good is what sells well and makes a tidy profit for the publisher.

imgres.jpgMany excellent books are printed by small presses and are seldom read despite their quality or importance.

But that’s an old rant of mine. These new ideas of subtlety being passé and that poetry has been supplanted by Metallica or Sheryl Crowe, added to the recent announcement that irony is dead, leaves me awash in a sea of literary uncertainty. Will I be able to continue my curmudgeonly ways? Will I still enjoy reading or will I have to shift to popular fiction for a maintenance fix? Will I ever read Tristram Shandy again?

I have read pornography and it is boring but, as posited in these articles, not bothered by subtlety, irony, or poetry. Still, I’ll put the following three novels up against any porn:

  • The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy
  • Ulysses
  • La Vie mode d’emploi.

 

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