Sunday, November 15, 2009

It's a New World, Baby- pop a cork, pour a glass, and relax

If I'm remembered at all as a writer, it's a surety and a certainty that I'll fall firmly, if I don't fall flat on my face, within the company of a not so rare new breed: The Twenty-first Century Author. Now, I'll admit there's not yet a lot to differentiate the Twenty-first Century Author from those who have come before, either in terms of what we write, or the manner we approach things, or in terms of the ghosts we fear and the goals we hope to accomplish. But amidst all the familiar pressure, the doom and gloom, the fear of the death of the printed word, and the apparent sinking of the publishing industry into the depths of the great pixel sea, I come bearing glad tidings to those of our kind.

You see, you and I, and anyone else fortunate enough to have begun our calling beyond the year Double-oh (or Dubyo- Now wouldn't that be an ill-omened nickname!), we are free. Capital F Free.

The Best writing of the Twentieth century? Not my problem. I don't have to play that game and neither do you. We're not burdened by Hemingway, Faulkner, Steinbeck, Borges, Nabokov, Angela Carter, Tolkien, Dashiell Hammett, John Gardner, Raymond Carver, Kafka, Fitzgerald, Dorothy Parker, Kerouac, W.S. Burroughs, Mervyn Peake, Flannery O'connor, Robert Graves, Marguerite Yourcenar, Virginia Woolf, Philip K. Dick, and so on, and so on, a hundred years worth. They've claimed their century, written all over it, marvelously and convincingly, but this one is ours. It's really a pretty sweet gig when you think about it like that.

But I'm not finished. It gets oh so much better. Not only is this a new century, if I needs must tell you, it's also a new millennium. Do you get where I'm coming from, you lucky, lucky writer you? Bye bye Dickens, Poe, Hawthorne, Conrad, Melville, Thomas Malory, Mark Twain, Chaucer, Cervantes, Dostoevsky, Tolstoy, Shelley, Bram Stoker, Voltaire, Dumas, Hugo, Robert Louis Stevenson, Swift, Kipling, Christopher Marlowe, etc. And a special goodbye to that greatest of all burdens on the modern writer's psyche: good William Shakespeare himself. I swear on my OED, it's enough to make a person weak in the knees.

But don't get me wrong, don't misunderstand what I'm saying, especially those of you who are unlucky in-betweeners. This isn't a dismissal of the past, not at all. We all live off those who came before us, and we build our mansions on their foundations. And they did the same, thank you Homer. This way of thinking is just a reorientation of the mind, an acknowledgment of the present and the future as a blank slate waiting to be filled. By you, by me, and by the new Best of the Millennium. It's a blessing and it's a challenge. And it's all ours. Better go have that drink now.

1 comment:

  1. Isaac Asimov has a story (whose title I can't remember) in which a scientist has a debate with God, whose divine chronometer has indicated that it's time for Doomsday. The scientist argues that different cultures have different calendars, so it shouldn't be the end of the world unless there was a calendar which was used by common consent, not religious habit. God resets the schedule so that 1945, the start of the nuclear era, is Year 1.

    So no new century or new millennium in that case.

    Considering the rapidity with which reputations come in and out of vogue, lived time does a much better job of discarding the deadwood than we can . . .