What Do We Want from Writing? Money? A Career? Recognition?


To be sure: there is a time to kill, to weep, to cast away stones. But there is also a time to question doing any of these things, or to question doing anything at all. Like now, for instance: it’s a great time to question the practices of contemporary literature. (This isn’t a demand but rather an empirical observation.) More and more — and from every angle — the notion that literature’s paradoxes should be exposed drives much of the “literary” conversation. The progressive and far left are (again) questioning gender, class, race, and other privileges that gentrify literary meaning. Elsewhere, closer to the center, writers like Joshua Rothman field these concerns (with perhaps less intensity) while also probing questions of literary boundaries and genre. From somewhere else entirely — a different world perhaps — the novelist, translator, and essayist Tim Parks questions most or all of these things, but, crucially, he also questions the questions. The…

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