The Morality of Aesthetic: Rethinking the Writer’s Obligations to Art and Reader
Updated: Dec 13, 2018
Marilynne Robinson opened her keynote address at the 75th anniversary of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop with the following: “Gloom is all the rage. In certain quarters, rage is all the rage…I am often asked to stoke its sooty fires. Honesty forbids.” Robinson went on to make a case for optimism and hope, but her initial point stands.
Gloom exists in culture and literature today. One senses an assumption on the part of many writers that fiction needs to be dark, moody, sarcastic, faithless, or brutal, to be worthy of the name, that to be anything less than painfully honest is to be somehow less than literary. I’ve often described this trend in contemporary fiction as: “Psychologically damaged characters psychologically damaging other characters before the whole lot of them are tossed into the abyss.” I’ve seen this gloom in published work. And I’ve seen this gloom in writing workshops. And truly, Woe betide the budding writer who brings a cheery story to a MFA program. But where does this gloom come from? What is it? What desire propels it? And do we have to take part in it to create art? These are questions worth asking...
Keep reading my full article, featured in the journal, Dappled Things.