Academic journal article The Mailer Review

Acceptance Speech for National Book Foundation Award

Academic journal article The Mailer Review

Acceptance Speech for National Book Foundation Award

Article excerpt

IN THESE YEARS I AM FEELING the woeful emotions of an old carriage-maker as he watched the disappearance of his trade before the onrush of the automobile. The serious novel may soon be in danger of being adored with the same poignant concern we feel for endangered species, endangered before the devastations of television with its clusters of commercials as well as by way of the critics of the mass media. There is an all but unspoken shame in the literary world today. The passion readers used to feel for venturing into a serious novel has withered. Indeed how many of you, even in this audience, do not obtain more pleasure from a review of a good novel in the New York Times than from the ardors involved in reading that good, but serious book?

Meanwhile, we are told that literacy is improving and more novels are being read than ever before. That maybe true. It is just that the vast majority of such successful fiction is all-too forgettable. The reader has been given the equivalent of a massage. The purpose of a great novel, however, is not to cater to one's passing needs but to enter one's life, even alter it. So, the great novel will kill no time on airplane trips. Rarely are good novels good page-turners. Ergo, they are in danger of becoming a footnote to our technological, cybernetic, and advertising worlds. Yeats' rude-beast has appropriated the marketplace. The good serious novel, and most certainly the rare great novel, is now inimical to the needs of this market-place. So, the most dedicated novels of the future are likely to have the same lack of relation to the ambitions and greed of the world as fine poetry offers today. So, too, will the serious novel be seen as doing little harm, provided it is kept on that high shelf we save for family what-nots. If these gloomy predictions are correct, let us look at least at what we may be losing. Civilization has become a dangerous vehicle, hurtling toward a fate that could be dire. Is it not by now a giant who can no longer see? The giant is blind in its ambitions, blind in its wars. Its great limbs do not coordinate with each other. Theology, as one of those limbs, is helpless before the unanswered questions of the Holocaust even as formal religion insists on an All-Good and All-Powerful God. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.