“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 Athens, GA. His work has been published in, Bookslut, The Comics Journal, Salon, The Baseball Chronicle, Jackson Free Press, and Valley Voices: A Literary Review. Follow him on Twitter (@walter_biggins), and check out his bimonthly newsletter (
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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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