Does our literature glorify the irresponsible and infantile?
The quote below is from the “The Death of Adulthood” essay that came out a few weeks ago in the New York Times.
“The typical male protagonist of our fiction has been a man on the run, harried into the forest and out to sea, down the river or into combat — anywhere to avoid ‘civilization,’ which is to say the confrontation of a man and woman which leads to the fall to sex, marriage and responsibility. One of the factors that determine theme and form in our great books is this strategy of evasion, this retreat to nature and childhood which makes our literature (and life!) so charmingly and infuriatingly ‘boyish.’ ”
I’ve seen this in some of my favorite novels. That’s probably because I’m a guy. But let’s take On The Road or Rabbit Run or the Richard Ford Sportswriter trilogy and these are books I like and admire and all of the major male characters leave and evade. If for years our literature and popular culture has predicted it, it’s no surprise that our culture basically now represents that.
For instance, women want men who have a steady job. And men don’t have that. This study came out a week or so ago, and here’s teh chart:
Does our popular culture (literature, TV, etc.) just reflect the cultural trend or cause the cultural trend?
That’s not for me to answer. A bunch of smart people can figure that one out. But it seems like the counternarrative now, is to write stories and produce literature where people are if not successful, they’re at least working hard at becoming something, rather than evading it.
Hopefully, my next novel Taco Jehovah addresses some of that–this slacker guy who does something, and then other people find it important and so he keeps moving forward.
There are obviously women and men who want jobs but can’t find them or can’t get them. I’m not saying there’s something off with that. Keep going. Keep doing your thing.
But maybe the idealization of people who can’t get/won’t get jobs has passed. That Slacker/MallRats/Garden State/Knocked Up thing is over.
What if responsibility and providing for yourself is the new new? And what if our literature reflected that?