I was listening to the Bob Edwards Weekend Edition on the way home from my monthly writing group meeting today, and I heard a really interesting interview. Bob was interviewing Edward Zwick the Director of the new film Defiance. I wish I could have listened to the whole interview, but I only caught the tail end. Zwick was discussing the change in the film industry and the difficulty in making meaningful movies.
Essentially, the appetite for easily digestible stories that can be pitched in a sentence or two has eliminated the chance for complex films making it to the big screen. He described how some stories resist being distilled to this level; you can’t just jump into the action as these works require a certain coaxing out,a building of layers and levels. A clear point was made that viewers don’t want to work to understand the theme anymore, everything should exist above the surface easy to consume and understand.
Hemingway would be horrified, no doubt.
I think there are a number of clear corollaries to publishing and writing. Often I find the stories I want to read are the hardest to find; they don’t get the big marketing dollars and push. Thus, I am sure the sales are lackluster. This only reinforces the notion that these types of complex, serious works “don’t sell.” I think the market is large and diverse. There is no reason to believe that only serious/complex works have more value, but they do have a place.
Maybe I just feel a bit dejected. My writing group sessions leave me feeling this way. I greet different genres and ideas with an open mind. It is certain not everyone extends this same courtesy. The last time I submitted I was told, “literary fiction is a waste of time.” I totally understand how people who write sci-fi or fantasy feel like they have to defend their genre against the snobby remarks of some. I’ve been in the crowd at a party where whispering that you liked to read Stephen King or Roger Zelazny books would mark you as a social outcast, a writing imbecile. There are groups of people who believe writing has to be nearly unintelligible to be good, to follow the formula of whatever writing program they sprung from. These sycophants give good writing programs a bad name, making writing an exclusive club that only those whose overwriting and overtheorizing can allow membership.
I share equal disdain for both the literati elite and the genre group who insist what they do is the only thing worth reading. It is a big wide world full of brilliant ideas that come in all forms.