Joy Chalaby of Fullness of Joy has been running a party celebrating the birthday of her blog, and I thought I would answer a series of questions she posed on the blogger's opinion of the "modern" novel."the modern novel"
1. Who are your most well-loved authors of the mid to late twentieth century (1930-1960)?
I want to say C.S. Lewis, because Lewis was an amazing writer and I really enjoy his Chronicles of Narnia, The Great Divorce, The Screwtape Letters, Out of the Silent Planet, and Perelandra. But when it comes to some of his other fictions, and when it comes to his writing in general, I realize that I am handling excellent literature for which I am simply not equipped with the basic tools to understand. Even his non-fiction The Discarded Image was a stretch at times - although a step which I could take. But sometimes I have to admit that Lewis simply knew and utilized more knowledge than I have access to or can currently command.
So I'm going to have to go with Rosemary Sutcliff. Again. Honestly, I have kind of out-grown my tutor now, and not all of her books exhibit the cutting edge of finesse which I demand in literature; but she is still magical - totally magical historical fiction - and she taught me a great deal of what I know. I know she was not a Christian and her literature was not Christian, but honestly that doesn't bother me. Christian fiction is generally sub-par and I don't have patience for that. The curious light-handedness (which I actually kind of wish Georgette Heyer employed as opposed to her stuffing every historical reference in possible) which she used when it comes to writing historical fiction was delicious and inspirational to me. Also she knew how to bring her writing and her time periods alive and place the reader's finger on the pulse to share the magic, and I will never, ever be able to express ingratitude for that training.
2. Who are your favourite authors of the twenty-first century?
I don't have any. We're only fourteen years into this century. Give it a little time.
3. Which genres do you tend to read the most and enjoy from more modern fiction?
I'm going to say that "modern" refers to "within living memory," because I am not sure I own many - if any - living authors in my library. So it may come down to a toss-up between Rosemary Sutcliff's historical fiction and Georgette Heyer's historical romance, because I seem to have the most of those and they are simply fun to read.
4. Are you more willing to invest yourself in a fictional trilogy/series or do you prefer the stand-alone novel better?
I have nothing against the series (gosh darn it, I'm writing one myself), but experientially the series is generally badly done (Emma - badly done indeed) so I usually prefer the stand-alone novel.
5. While it is generally agreed that nothing beats classic fiction, there is much gold in the new too! What are the positive qualities and styles of modern fiction?
I must protest that I fail to see the rage about classic fiction. As nearly as I understand it, a "classic" is just a book which has survived fame for more than one generation, and honestly if sparkly vampires outlast a generation and continue going strong, they will become classical. And personally, I have no patience for fangirling, period drama fanaticism, et al, and since I tend to take any and all books and/or authors on a strictly individual basis of merit, I don't like any one genre, classics included.
In terms of "modern" fiction, it tends to be cinematic - which is fascinating seeing one new method of media and storytelling so vitally impacting an old method. Also "modern" fiction tends to engage the emotions of the reader more than older fiction; even I share this view: that the reader is a "ghost" character, almost as much a part of the story one is telling as the characters one has made up and is writing. In older writing one often merely watches the emotions and reactions of the characters, whereas in "modern" fiction the reader's heart is intricately linked with that of the character.
6. What is your greatest hope for modern fiction?
I'm cynical and jaded. I don't put any trust in anybody's writing but my own. You will hear audiobooks and rumours of audiobooks, and many dystopian novels will arise, but honestly writing is pretty much the same as it has ever been: the market is full of good and bad, fads come and go and books from either camp remain. Of the writing of books there is no end, and lo the ink stains will be with you always, even to the end of the hand-soap dispenser.
7. List five books by modern authors you have read which you either hope or predict will become "classics" in years to come.
A Wrinkle In Time, The Grand Sophy, The Eagle of the Ninth, Mara: Daughter of the Nile, The Screwtape Letters. Challenge me.
8. In reading modern books, do you predominately read from the secular or Christian market?
Of the seven fictions I have read so far this year, the only overtly Christian novel among them was Rachel Heffington's Fly Away Home, and I was quite pleased with that novel. Most of the time Christian fiction is shallow, unrealistic, uninformed, and uninspiring. My two favourite novels of 2014's first six months are Mary Stewart's Nine Coaches Waiting (superb prose, excellent plot - if a "Christian" writer were to touch it, it would taste like fifteen cubes of sugar in a three ounce cup of tea) and Georgette Heyer's These Old Shades, which sports a deliciously cold-blooded revenge plot. So yes, I tend to read secular fiction. When the Christian authors can gird up their loins adequately (and talk of loins without colouring up and lowering their voices) I'll probably be perfectly happy to read them too.
9. List three of your favourite novels written in this century.
Again, this century is only fourteen years old. I'm not in a hurry. I can wait to see how books weather.
10. Of various as-of-yet unpublished books that you know about, what are five that you most wish to read one day?
Lamblight, Maresgate, Cruxgang, Drakeshelm, Ampersand. I am rather a chap of one idea, and I don't do things by halves either. You'll thank me later.