This may all sound very trite and obvious, but one thing that I’ve noticed is that since I’ve dedicated myself to reading a shit ton of fiction over the past couple years, I’ve been able to better understand cultural shifts within American history.
I was thinking about this a lot when I was reading Revolutionary Road. Like I mentioned in my review, this was a time (the 1950s) when the American Dream was still very much alive. Frank and April stood out in their rejection of this ideal and their biting cynicism in the face of this collective hopefulness. In other words, being cynical (at least outwardly so) wasn’t the norm.
Fast forward to today: now, cynicism is the norm, increasingly so since the latter half of the 20th century. In fact, Frank and April don’t seem very subversive at all by today’s standards.
And then taking this all a step further…it’s no coincidence that post-modernism picked up momentum and reached its peak in the latter half of the 20th century, and has lost steam in recent decades. We simply don’t need it anymore. We’re all cynical and disillusioned enough at this point without it.
So now, I wonder, what’s the next big literary movement? Some suggested at one point that David Foster Wallace’s “new sincerity” would be it, combining many of the tenets of post-modernism with a refreshing sincerity, but I honestly can’t think of anyone who has truly followed in his footsteps. In many ways, there has been somewhat of a return to realism, but it doesn’t seem to be cycling back entirely. It makes me wonder: if literature is a reflection of our culture, then what kind of literary movement do we need right now?
Anyway. Just some thoughts that have been going through my head tonight.