William Deverell — Novelist

The official website of William Deverell, Winner of the Dashiell Hammett Award for Literary Excellence in North American Crime Writing

The Death of Literature

Bry’s Blog / June 15, 2015

About your website, Bill. Can’t you kind of release some air from it so it’s not so anal-retentive with text-heavy excepts, reviews, awards, and your other little ego-warming back-slappers? So, okay, you have a honourary D. Litt. (They just want to put you out to pasture, Bill. Means you’re over the hill.)

And your blog, man, with that cheesy, snotty Horace Widgeon, the straw man you invented to make you look stylishly hip and au courant. Kill him, Bill. Hire me instead. I’m annoying in my own way, but at least I’m real.Widgeon June 15

Happily lacking in your blog, however, is the bright-eyed chattiness one expects online these days, the sharing of one’s innermost banalities, the borrowed opinions about love and art and planetary survival introduced by the blogger’s favourite cloying quote, tucked into the screen’s upper-right corner, something perhaps from Confucius: A hint of fragrance clings to the hand that gives flowers.

But where is the angst one must expect from blogs of striving writers? I’m not talking about the trauma of arriving at your signing wearing socks with your Birkenstocks, and I’m not talking about the lonely sorrows of the creative artist, and I’m not talking about the evolving nature of the post-Derridian novel. I’m talking about the death of literature.

Shout it out.

Things that you’d blog if you weren’t such a wuss:

“The Canadian arts-and-letters scene sucks. It is conservative, elitist, totally anal and smothered by the Great National Inferiority Complex ”

“Mostly crap gets published.” (Quote Juvenal here: “Many suffer from the incurable disease of writing, and it becomes chronic in their sick minds.”)

“Crap also gets taught in lit courses, except for Shakespeare, Joyce, and Yeats.”

“Canada can count maybe four fiction writers who rank in the world’s best hundred: Laurence, Atwood, Shields, and Munroe, and then the ice gets thin.”

“My brilliance, nay, genius, is widely overlooked.”

Sorry about that, Bill, but sometimes your blimp needs some helium released.

Literature, Bill. This isn’t about the demise of the printed word, that’s already a given: book review pages going extinct, publishing houses shrivelling, retail chains collapsing under the weight of the Worldwide Web. Calvin Trillin:. “The shelf life of the modern hardback writer is somewhere between the milk and the yoghurt.” The obituary is written, it’s online, in the Cloud. And it’s the sheer fecundity of the crap that’s up there that is smothering literature.

No one knows how to get beyond the lightweight assembly-line pop that the etailers hype as best-sellers (some, like the Ludlums, written from the grave). Yeah, you can go to a bookstore—if you can find one—and seek out the bottom-shelf nuggets, but online you’re drowning in the Amazon river with all the self-published vanity pulp, memoirs and romances and whodunits with their strangled prose and totally awesome clichés and “it’s” for “its” and clusters of exclamation marks.

Disclaimer—this rant has nothing to do with the failure of my own two efforts at fiction. I can say with pride that I had the decency not to put them online. No, this is for you, Bill. Get off your high horse and blog about the despair book lovers suffer in their quest for something readable on their pads and Kindles, something challenging, that gives pleasure. What’s left to read but blogs?

Maybe that’s where you ought to stand up to the forces throttling literature, by writing a novel starring you, Bill, and your old bud from the sixties and seventies. With eerie echoes of the truth, odd coincidences, tension, conflict, a blinding twist before the climax. A buddy book with a weepy ending, the supposed author of Needles on bended knee, confessing his sins and lies, begging forgiveness.

Before I forget, I’ve changed it the password to your blog. Your old one was too hard to remember. Crossword clue: “Whose nose grows.” Thirteen letters. Ciao for now.