Are We Having a Cranky Day, Or Is The Headline Just Irritating?

March 8th, 2005 · 2 Comments
by Booksquare

We do not make light of the events of 9/11. Nobody will forget what happened, and it is inevitable that all aspects of that day will inform the arts. And yet, for novelists, it comes down to “where have you been all these years?”

We would argue that 9/11 informs most fiction written since that day. Certainly many novels have addressed the issue. Now that the literary end of the fiction spectrum is appearing in print, the first response suggests novelists were on the sidelines.

After three years of near silence about the attacks of Sept. 11, the literary world has begun to grapple with the meanings and consequences of the worst terrorist attack ever to happen on American soil.

Perhaps it’s more like it takes a while to write a book, forever to get your editor to buy the book, the back and forth of editing and proofing and such, then finally the book hits the shelf. Yet, it’s almost as if none of this comes into play. Oops. There it is, buried further down:

The delay of more than three years reflects both the logistics of producing a bound volume of a lengthy manuscript and the more subtle, complex process of creating a novel.

We know we ask a lot of the media, but would it be too much to skip the faux “gee whiz” stuff and, oh, maybe take a different approach? Maybe address the ways novelists use to make sense of the nonsensical?

File Under: Books/Mags/Blogs

2 responses so far ↓

  • Dan Conaway // Mar 8, 2005 at 3:31 pm

    In expressing my rage w/ Edward Wyatt’s “discovery” that 9/11 is has at last become the topic of serious fiction, I must ‘fess to a personal interest in the matter. I was the editor/publisher of Nicholas Rinaldi’s extraordinary novel BETWEEN TWO RIVERS, which came out a year ago [due out shortly in paperback]–and which (it was occasionally argued) may have struck a little too close to home, either emotionally or chronologically; perhaps readers weren’t ready to revisit this tragedy. Never mind the fact that SCORES of nonfiction accounts have been published in the interim; never mind that novelists like Nicholas Rinaldi are perhaps uniquely capable of depicting those events and the circumstances that came before and after, in a light that might, in fact (as we ask of all great literature), transcend the particular and expand our understanding, not just of those events but of the larger world of which they were a part.

    “Finally,” says Mr. Wyatt? No: what’s “finally” happening is that bigger-name writers like Ian McEwan and Reynolds Price and Jonathan Safron Foer have “finally” dipped their toes in the water. Big names–names Mr. Wyatt has perhaps already heard of?–and so “finally” Mr. Wyatt has a story.

    The fact that Mr. Wyatt didn’t mention BETWEEN TWO RIVERS anywhere in the text of his article (he did, thankfully, include it in the sidebar roster of titles) indicates that he never read it. A shame, because–and, yes, I’m an unabashed hyperbolist, and an interested party; but nonetheless this is my true belief–NONE of the books he spoke about instead surpass either scope or the intimacy of what Nicholas Rinaldi accomplished in BETWEEN TWO RIVERS. Perhaps in a couple of years, when Richard Russo’s film of Rinaldi’s prior novel, JUKEBOX QUEEN OF MALTA, has made Rinaldi a household name, Wyatt will have the imagination–nay, the curiosity–to take note of the artistry, poetry, poignancy and–yes–humor of BETWEEN TWO RIVERS. Until then though–WORLD TAKE NOTE! “Literary Novelists Address 9/11–Finally.”

  • booksquare // Mar 8, 2005 at 11:00 pm

    Dan, your rant was quite on target, and I appreciate your taking the time to address the issue directly. While my adoration of Wyatt’s work is well-known, I had no idea others felt the same way . I truly wish the article had discussed the emotional impact of the novels rather than the perceived novelty. I believe you cannot write contemporary fiction set in the United States without 9/11 forming at least some part of the story. Most people in this country did not experience the event directly, but we were all impacted. This is revealed in many ways.

    That name authors are getting to the subject isn’t news — how they add to the world’s understanding is. And that’s something I still don’t know.

    Here’s a direct link to Between Two Rivers