Few authors have not dreamed of penning works on the forefront of a generational trend. Bloomsbury. The Beatniks. Postmodernism. Literary movements spark and evolve, ebb and flow together without ever warning the writer. By the time one knows what is new, all too often that new has already become old. Yet there is a sentiment emerging now, wondering aloud—though still quietly—
Personally, I blame the internet.
Rather, if history is truly linear, I blame living at the latest point of time on Earth. After all, Isaac Newton’s reference to standing on the shoulders of giants can easily be read as “in the shadows of giants” instead, with just a few changes in the wording. Now that the digitization of the 21st century is in full swing, how is an author, poet, blogger—or anybody for that matter—meant to kickstart or join in a fresh take on literature? With every novel, article, and chapbook (in every language, no less) at our fingertips, how does one not become burned out and demoralized by all the greats that have come before us?
Personally, I blame the internet.
The idea has crossed more minds than mine. Over the years, I have read a number of articles and opinion pieces in publications such as Time and Harper’s Magazine that question why the next “Great American Novel”, or style of poetry in general, has not surfaced yet. As expected, the arguments have varied wildly.
Some point to the overall drop in readership witnessed over the past decade, which in turn has led publishers to being more conservative, willing to bet only on “sure things”. There are also those who suggest that a lack of innovation is simply due to a diversification of the literary world; that no one story or movement can encapsulate an entire generation anymore.
Yet another theory revolves around the proliferation of MFA programs that shunt like-minded writers from the manicured lawns of universities to the pristine boardrooms of New York publishing houses, without allowing writers to experience life in ways that made writers of previous eras flourish.
Of course, I for one still blame the internet. Or our place in history. Maybe both.
Somehow, the age-old tradition of isolating oneself for hours, even days at a time, in the hopes of finishing that next chapter—just one more chapter!—maintains its appeal, as I’m sure it will for years to come.
Yet somehow the draw of writing persists. For me, and for others I have met along the way. Sitting in cafes pounding on my keyboard for hours at a time remains my number one hobby, despite the very high likelihood that I will never be recognized through the sheer volume of literature available, let alone create something entirely novel (get it?). Somehow, the age-old tradition of isolating oneself for hours, even days at a time, in the hopes of finishing that next chapter—just one more chapter!—maintains its appeal, as I’m sure it will for years to come.
Perhaps I’m a masochist. Or a hopeless romantic (yet another movement). But when someone claims that there are no new stories left anymore—they’ve all been written—I cling (perhaps naively) to the assumption that the legends I grew up reading probably heard very similar things in their times. They must have sat in cafes similar to my favorite haunts of modern America, scribbling, typing, churning out the pages, wondering if maybe that sentiment was right—until the “aha” moment finally came. Indeed, I can always take comfort in reminding myself that they, too, were human, and not actually giants.
Cutter Hurst is currently pursuing a Masters in Education with the hopes of teaching literature at the high school and eventually college level. In his spare time he writes and travels and works towards establishing a small press of his own one day.