.... are we caught in a diminishing loop of derivative creativity, some kind of stranglehold of the secondhand? Have we wandered deeper into Eliot’s Waste Land — the fragmented panoramas, the “heap of broken images,” only now with more zombies — than the poet himself could have foreseen? Can it be that our highest form of cultural expression is the YouTube mash-up? “The originators, the exuberant men, are extinct,” Evelyn Waugh wrote in 1957, “and in their place subsists and modestly flourishes a generation notable for elegance and variety of contrivance.” We do not have Tolkien, in other words: We have J. J. Abrams. ... Tolkien, too, was of course drawing on his sources, his own scholarly vaults of inspiration, his Kalevalas and Nibelungenlieds and all that. But he was closer to the root, to the first fictive impulse.
You can probably guess how I feel about all this and where my sympathies lie, but I'll go on anyway.
A big part of why we have a heap of broken images is because we've managed to make it unsustainable to sell anything else but last year's models. Curiosity has become an acquired taste, and an increasingly rarefied one. It's easier to give people a variation on something they — and everyone else — already know, instead of trying to tickle their imaginations in a different way.
But much of the reason why has little to do with peoples' imaginations per se, and everything to do with marketing. In other words, the reason we shy away from promoting the new things is not because they're new, but because promoting something new is too much like work — it's easier to just pick up on what came before and pretend you're inheriting a grand tradition (or cynically surfing a set of coattails).
As perverse as this sounds, I think we need as much a revolution in marketing as we have a revolution in distribution and production. We need new and inventive ways to speak about the new and the inventive, or we'll be condemning a whole generation of do-it-yourselfers to shouting into empty closets. If Waugh wrung his hands, maybe it was more because the originals were being pointedly ignored — which, in turn, would make them as effectively extinct as if they had never come into being.