Tuesday, November 5, 2013
Review: Contemporary Fiction
Contemporary Fiction by Robert Eaglestone
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
At first I didn't like this book. It's certainly a short introduction, but it didn't seem very simplified. I've got a degree in English (albeit not modern English literature), so I was surprised to find it as difficult as I did. Eaglestone seems to be in awe of Sarah Waters; the attention he gives her in the early chapters seems disproportionate, but thankfully he gives other authors equal attention later on and the book recovers its balance.
Eaglestone makes some bold assertions without feeling the need to back them up. The most glaring of these is that modern people have far more complex and difficult lives than their ancestors. This is arguable, to say the least.
But it's worth persevering. Eaglestone does know his stuff, and the occasions when his political bias intrudes are rare enough to be forgiven. A good critique enables a reader to form an opposite opinion, and his praise for Nicola Barker's Darkmans is enough to convince me that this is a terrible example of up-its-own-backside literature to be avoided at all costs. Elsewhere, his takedown of Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer for its use of a child narrator - simplifying and thus avoiding the issues - seems spot-on.
I wasn't convinced till I read the final chapter on criticism, which added something new (to me) and put the rest of the book into proper context.
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