There is a style of writing novels that is not style; I call it novelese. The language skitters along the surface of things in a lively pastiche of known phrases and ideas and reference without plumbing the depths. There is even novelese for “plumbing the depths” in a superficial, unadventurous, non-threatening way. Depth that only vaguely looks like depth, Ideas that look like ideas but aren’t. Tim Parks doesn’t give it a name, but his idea of contemporary non-style is similar to mine.
Read this essay next the two Andrew Gallix essays on the tired conventions of literary realism: “The End of Literary Realism” and “Of Literary Bondage,” and read my essays “The Novel as a Poem” and “Difficulty and Revolution,” and you’ll begin to see a density of argument and a critical vector that should lead you to consider or reconsider your approach to writing and reading.
Such is the future of literature and literary style in a global age: historical novels, fantasy, vast international conspiracies, works that visit and revisit the places a world culture has made us all familiar with; in short an idea of literature that may give pleasure but rarely excites at the linguistic level, rarely threatens, electrifies, reminds us of, and simultaneously undermines the way we make up the world in our own language. Perhaps it is this development that has made me weary with so much contemporary fiction. In particular I have started reading poetry again. There indeed things can still happen with the language, and writers are still allowed to produce texts that are untranslatable and for the most part unprofitable.