Sitcom/comedy/now-short-story writer B.J. Novak was on the Bret Easton Ellis podcast. Here’s some stuff I thought about while listening to the interview.
Novak has a new book out, and by all accounts it’s pretty good (I’M #42 ON MY LIBRARY’S WAITING LIST). A lot of his interview with Bret Easton Ellis deals with the shifting formats of literature but also how Millenials / People Younger than Bret Easton Ellis like sincerity more than irony.
For the most part, I think that’s true–but it’s really about being more sincere about niche things than general mainstream things, to set yourself apart. No one in these circles genuinely likes The Big Bang Theory for instance, except to have a counter viewpoint.
Next, they get into a bit about the “glamor of being an author” before making a comparison of Tao Lin and his style and his followers are different than what Ellis experienced. Greenpoint Lit vs. Manhattan Lit as Ellis put I think, which maybe is a commentary more about audience building–Lin is basically DIY, compared to the publicist-and-press-but-hands-off-author approach of Manhattan.
All of that happens around the 15 minute mark.
Then here comes the memory lane jogging about David Foster Wallace and Philip Roth, and it got me thinking (SPEAKING OF GENERATIONS) about how we don’t need traditional influences anymore. What I mean is, a writer developing their taste today and who is a big reader can just read stuff put out by their peers, there is no need to actually read older authors. In the past, a person interested in reading had to read those books because that’s all that was physically available mostly, your library or school provided you these books and you discovered Jack Kerouac or Toni Morrison or Jane Austen or Kurt Vonnegut. But what’s kinda interesting about modern lit and internet lit is that it’s all just influenced by each other rather than older things. It’s a new way to live, and so some of it’s bad, but some of it’s challenging and good and I think that’s what Ellis and Novak were stumbling towards.
Near the end, Novak questions whether we should even think about formas anymore and just appreciate a good story no matter where it comes from. It’s a legit question, especially for him as someone who’s trying to have success in various mediums. Novak is exceedingly nice here to Ellis even though Ellis can be sort of a blowhard at times, and maybe we should just look at stories as just stories instead of lamenting the loss of interest in books or movies or whatever.
Stop celebrating the format and start loving the form.
Just be happy that stories have a place in the world.