About Writers

Midnight in Paris

Midnight_in_Paris_PosterIf you’ve seen this 2011 movie, then you know it’s about writers. Owen Wilson stars as an American writer in Paris from the year 2010 who stumbles into the roaring 20s to meet the Fitzgeralds, Zelda and Scott; Ernest Hemingway; Gertrude Stein & cohorts. It won the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay, the Golden Globe Awards for Best Screenplay and was nominated for three other Academy Awards. Setting aside the astonishing photography, the fun, believable scenes with great writers and artists of the time and the award winning writing, we come to the heart of the story: Everybody believes that the Golden Age of writing is in the past. They missed it and they long for it.

Are we like that? Do we tend to believe that the best 20th Century writers are better than anyone out there today? Are none of the 11 million books on Amazon worthy of future veneration? This is, of course, a matter of perception and we may someday find a book from the last 16 years that went unnoticed at publication but is reprinted for generations because it says something no other book says so well.

As writers, we should be able to say -now- what such a book would be like. I think it would have to tell readers things about their own lives that they don’t understand because they are too close but that a writer, being on the outside looking in, can.

What do you think a new book destined to be reprinted for generations would have to be like?

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12 thoughts on “Midnight in Paris

  1. mimispeike says:

    It would have to say something real and relevant to us, even if it’s fantasy set on another world. This is for starters. I’ll be back with more.

    Also, a book that steers clear of tried and true. Over on Slate, I see Dylan called ‘an endlessly canny/inscrutable cultural chess player.’ Change out cultural for literary, this is what I look for.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Interesting point of personal trivia for ya, GD: I saw that movie five midnight showings in a row when it first came out. I used the movie as my own personal time machine to escape into another era as things were fast going south in this one. (It’s Woody Allen’s love letter to Paris, as many have noted. A delightful film.)

    To your larger question: of course there’s good–even great–books being written today!

    I’ll pass on playing the define-your-criteria-for-literary greatness game; it’s click-bait grist for endless argumentation.

    Instead, I’ll recommend a title everyone should read; an instant modern-day classic that will be long remembered in the future: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/04/04/books/review/Junger-t.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

    Liked by 1 person

    • GD Deckard says:

      WoW, Carl, thanks! The NYT Sunday Book Review by Sebastian Junger of The Vietnam Wars: ‘Matterhorn’ is electrifying. I can only imagine how it would feel to read the book. He is right, of course, that war is a world that can’t be shared with ordinary people. And I don’t doubt, “Almost every page contains some example of military callousness or incompetence…” but I don’t believe “…that would be virtually inconceivable today.” In that conclusion, the reviewer is more in the world of ordinary people than of war.

      Liked by 1 person

      • (Err . . . slight correction here: Matterhorn was written by Karl Marlantes. Sebastian Junger praised the novel in the New York Times.)

        It’s well worth the read, GD. For everyone. Of course, as a former active duty marine (there are no ex-marines, as the saying goes) I wasn’t as confused about military ranks, jargon and radio protocol as the reviewer was.

        BTW: The author tried publishing an early version of the novel in the late 70s. He was turned down flat by every major publisher; told it was simply unpublishable given the tone and tenor of the times. (Bullshit, I say; but that’s what passes for market wisdom at the major houses then and now.)

        Another half-dozen modern classics off the top of my head I venture will stand the test of time (or at least the next 1000 years):

        The World According to Garp – John Irving
        Grendel – John Gardner
        The Things They Carried – Tim O’Brien
        The Shining – Stephen King
        Needful Things – Stephen King
        This Boys Life – Tobias Wolf
        Wonder Boys – Michael Chabon
        Fahrenheit 451 – Ray Bradbury
        Dandelion Wine – Ray Bradbury
        Interview With The Vampire – Anne Rice
        Slaughterhouse 5 – Kurt Vonnegut
        Mother Night – Kurt Vonnegut

        I urge everyone within the sound of my typing: If you haven’t yet read these fine novels, run, don’t walk, to your nearest bookstore or library and commence to readin’. You won’t be sorry!

        What does your top half-dozen, -ten or -twelve modern fiction classics list look like, I wonder?

        Liked by 2 people

        • GD Deckard says:

          Yeh, I know. I just phrased it vaguely. I wanted to separate out the review which I read from the book which I haven’t & put that all clear as mud.

          I have read much from your list of modern classics and agree. My list would include Catch 22, The Watchman & a book by George Carlin (pick one you like.)

          BYW, I laughed at you binge-watching Midnight In Paris and could see myself doing the same thing. There was a warmth and joy to that movie that most never achieve.

          Liked by 1 person

  3. mimispeike says:

    There are many books I adore, but they don’t merit being on a ‘for the ages’ list. I’m thinking, but I’m really worn out right now. I’m working on it.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. GD Deckard says:

    There are reasons to think a book belongs to multiple generations. I picked Catch 22 because I believe war & bureaucracy will always be with organized societies. The Watchman because we’ve had graphic depictions of life & death since we drew them on cave walls. And George Carlin’s book (pick one) because great comedians will always make us laugh at insights into our quirky nature. Great books may be those that inform every generation anew.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. This is a great question. I am often searching for a book that speaks to me about the world, that enlightens me: I love those that move things forward in a way as yet unthought of: stories that change the way I see the world. Those are few and far between.

    Liked by 4 people

    • Few and far between indeed. But to a large extent it’s because I’ve aged – the way I see the world is, sadly perhaps, more fixed now than when I was 20. Back then, books left a much more lasting impression. I’d have to think long and hard to find one that’s had a big impact on me recently. Maybe Kafka On The Shore.

      Liked by 2 people

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