Okay, I read a lot of modern fiction. It’s one way of keeping up with literary trends. But time after time I ask myself: will this writer survive the test of time?

And time after time, the answer is no.
To me, this is a depressing state of affairs. I can see, in a couple of hundred years, people could well look back at our culture and see something approaching a Dark Age.
In art, we have the ‘conceptual’. This is where it starts to go wrong. Art is becoming non-permanent – a brief exercise in sensationalism and then it’s gone. Of course, this IS art. After all, art is supposed to be a symbol of society. And isn’t our society becoming increasingly faddish and sensational?
And an obvious outcome of this has rubbed off on the novelist. Whereas art has become totally an expression of the individual artist, so, too, with the writer. The literary novel has become autobiographical, often without a story. And also much more …
Stories are also about society. This is a point often missed in literary fiction today. Great novels are, in a sense, Arthurian, in that they concern a ‘hero’, who experiences change, and somehow places that change in his society.
With the individual as centre of his own story, this vital link between character and community is degraded.
Of course, there are exceptions – in both art and literature – but as a general trend, I think this holds true. And I just don’t think the experiences of an individual alone will be enough to hold people’s attention down the centuries.
Or am I wrong?

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