Tag writing

Good art in dark times

From a bracing, decade-old conversation between David Foster Wallace and Larry McCaffery an English professor at San Diego State “perhaps best known for his role in helping to establish science fiction as a major literary genre.”

If what’s always distinguished bad writing—flat characters, a narrative world that’s cliched and not recognizably human, etc.—is also a description of today’s world, then bad writing becomes an ingenious mimesis of a bad world. If readers simply believe the world is stupid and shallow and mean, then Ellis can write a mean shallow stupid novel that becomes a mordant deadpan commentary on the badness of everything. Look man, we’d probably most of us agree that these are dark times, and stupid ones, but do we need fiction that does nothing but dramatize how dark and stupid everything is? In dark times, the definition of good art would seem to be art that locates and applies CPR to those elements of what’s human and magical that still live and glow despite the times’ darkness. Really good fiction could have as dark a worldview as it wished, but it’d find a way both to depict this world and to illuminate the possibilities for being alive and human in it.


from “A Conversation with David Foster Wallace,” interview by Larry McCaffery, Dalkey Archive Press, 1991 :: via more than 95 theses

Originally published at culture-making.com.