“I’m really wary of the term ‘political fiction,’ because I think that often it’s the writers who appear superficially apolitical (say, for example, John Cheever) whose work has the most substantive political impact. Cheever (and I hate to pick on him, but he presents an appealing target) created an entire new psychic landscape for the American suburbs, a kind of lifestyle of low-key suburban neurosis, that made it possible, in the 1960s and 70s, to turn away from the cities and what was happening in the culture at large, and return to a kind of ersatz Wasp subjectivity that didn’t have to travel any farther than the boundaries of Greenwich or Darien. He created, in the American short story, a ground for suburban bourgeois self-absorption that was picked up by writers like Ann Beattie and Laurie Colwin in the 1980s, and is very much still with us today.

“All of which is a long way of saying that the politics in American fiction is largely unconscious, and what I would like to do—what the writers I most admire tend to do—is make it conscious and explicit, to tell rather than show. Not out of some attack of conscience (although as a matter of principle I think it’s bad faith to refuse to acknowledge the obvious implications of a work of art, whatever they may be) but because I think it’s aesthetically interesting, and also because it makes a lot of people upset. It provokes interesting conversations.”

—Jess Row, in interview

About Walter Biggins

Walter Biggins is a writer based in Atlanta, GA. He is the co-author (with Daniel Couch) of Bob Mould's Workbook (Bloomsbury, 2017). His work has been published in The Quarterly Conversation,, Bookslut (RIP), The Comics Journal, The Baseball Chronicle, and other periodicals. Twitter: @walter_biggins.
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One Response to Commonplace

  1. Lois says:

    re: your twitter about pre-Code movies:
    completely fascinating, and somehow appropos to our own cultural times and where we’ll go from here…

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