If 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?