Thursday, October 25, 2012

Tom Wolfe on his new book, Back to Blood

Tom Wolfe on his new book, Back to Blood - Telegraph:" . . . Pretty soon we’re back in Paris in the 1880s, when the rot set in. An intellectual movement was born that scorned realistic art and literature as plebeian, and championed more difficult and experimental work. Wolfe has been banging on about this since 1970 at least, and he’s still thoroughly energised on the subject. 'Rimbaud and Baudelaire were the darlings of a very intellectual group. It also included a man named Catulle Mendès, who told a newspaper interviewer, “We no longer care about the masses. We write for 'a charming aristocracy’.” That was the phrase: a charming aristocracy of taste. Now Rimbaud and Baudelaire are somewhat understandable, but as time goes on, to show that you’re a member of that charming aristocracy, you have to like things that completely baffle the masses and the middle class. It all started from there – concretism, minimalism, every -ism you can think of, right up to the present day.’Rather than keep coming up with new fads to make the in-crowd feel superior, Wolfe thinks art and literature should broaden their appeal and re-engage the masses. The only way to do this, he has argued for nearly 50 years, is to go back to realism, and portray society as it actually is. His literary heroes are Dickens and Zola – novelists who went out into the world like journalists, wrote for the masses and made their books as real as possible. 'If the novel dies, which it may do in this country, it’s because our novelists aren’t doing this any more.’ To put it another way, almost everyone writing fiction these days is doing it wrong except Tom Wolfe. This, he seems to believe, is why his novels have been so widely read. . . ."

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