I haven't posted a true "post" yet so, I guess today is as good as any.
As the summer nears an end, well, at least from my perspective since school is about to start and football season is about to be here to usher in the fall, I feel the need to take stock of my year so far.
I'm now reading my 28th novel this year. I'm not sure what that says about me, considering I work full time, and a mother of two girls age 5 and under, but, it doesn't feel like I've wasted my time. Honest. I discovered an author that grips me as much as Thomas Hardy did in the contemporary American writer, Philip Roth.
I've always leaned toward American fiction even though my first loves were classic 18th and early 19th century British novelists. But now, I am back to the good ole USofA.
Yep...something about the American spirit, the robustness of it, the manner of speech, the brashness softened only by the hope that can't help but be there. In a sense, it's almost as if the American writer is unaware of just how upbeat even the most despairing or dire of circumstances come across in the writing if only because there is the idea, the notion that, there is "the othere side." In American fiction, that idea is always just beneath the surface.
The central struggle presented in American fiction is the struggle over simply--how do you get there? How does one make it? What exercises in either futility or practicality does one undertake to get to some place of contentment even if not happiness? Because in American fiction that "place" does exist.
I'm not saying that this idea is not true for other countries but it is rather especially true for American fiction from James Fenimore Cooper to Nathaniel Hawthorne to Mark Twain to F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway...to even the African-American writers like Ralph Ellison, Richard Wright, and Alice Walker who, despite the state of America during their writings, still found a way to have hope, to fight for it even. Or Jewish American writers like Bernard Malamud and Philip Roth who wrote almost exclusively about Jewish American characters and their struggles to reach that "place" in American culture.
Today, in reading Charles Baxter I see it. I see it even in Robert James Waller or Alice Seebold, writers of completely different genres but nonetheless, the notion of "hope" is there.
Hope is that place. It's where American fiction does what American poetry cannot. It's a map to the other side, filled with not just a voice or of images...but of dialogue, conversations on how to get there.