Are deeply tragic and exiquisitely-timed comedic writers having trouble finding newer audiences within older forms?
What effects are the distance-shortening and attention-altering technological networks having on more traditional arts?
‘The young man who has not wept is a savage, and the old man who will not laugh is a fool.’
English writers Ian McEwan and Martin Amis have a discussion; a bit about writing, a bit about personal habits and audience attention spans, but also about this past century’s ideological fever dreams.
You might just recognize some of these living and dead horses:
AC This idea of belief systems comes out in both of your books, doesn’t it – what people will do in the name of the beliefs that they’ve constructed or developed.
MA Yes: it’s a world in itself that – belief systems. Ian’s been talking about religion, but also ideology. Although what I discovered when I’d gone on reading about the Holocaust over the last 25 years is that in the Russian case, very pedantically following various Marxist tributaries and deviations, the ideology remained very strong.
I was shocked to learn that Gorbachev, just as the whole empire was crumbling, was up all night reading Lenin, saying, “The answer must be here.” But in Hitler’s case, in the German case, there was no ideology. There were two or three ideas: Lebensraum – extra land empire; hallucinatory anti-Semitism; and just wanting to stay in power – and that was it. People weren’t attracted to Nazism because of its ideology; it was a sort of rallying cry for sadists and that was all it was meant to be.
IM Yes, those black flags of Northern Iraq are another case – it acts as a great attractor for every available would-be torturer. Psychopathia is thinly spread through all populations and they just need their historical chance, don’t they?
AC And why are novelists drawn to it?
IM We love things going wrong.
McEwan mentions the death of the inductive novel, or novel as puzzle to reason through, perhaps requiring greater and deeper attention which is occupied elsewhere.
Are you willing to go on this type of journey with a good artist? From this Playboy interview with Vladimir Nabokov:
Nabokov: ‘On the contrary, I shudder retrospectively when I recall that there was a moment, in 1950, and again in 1951, when I was on the point of burning Humbert Humbert’s little black diary. No, I shall never regret Lolita. She was like the composition of a beautiful puzzle—its composition and its solution at the same time, since one is a mirror view of the other, depending on the way you look.’
Is the artist supposed to solve a puzzle or ask you to help solve his puzzle?
On that note, serial, narrative fiction and reasoned problem-solving meet with you-know-who:
“I must take the view, your Grace, that when a man embarks upon a crime, he is morally guilty of any other crime which may spring from it.”
A discussion of deductive and inductive reasoning here, as it might relate to solving crimes (which is highly dramatized in our culture, perhaps partly due to Holmes).
Strange Maps has this.
221B Baker Street page here.
In the meantime, once you’ve thought long and hard about a problem, find a groove and settle-in.
Have some Green Onions for Christmas.