The notion that contemporary fiction possesses greater relevance for us because it talks of the Internet or supermodels or familiar brand names is ridiculous. We can see ourselves reflected more clearly in Balzac's Parisians than in a modern American who goes into raptures when his daughter says "Toyota Celica" in her sleep.
I'm going to be quoting a great deal from Meyers's excellent essay (even better in its full-length book-sized incarnation) in the near future, but I wanted to start with this particular snippet.
"Relevance" is a buzzword, and I sincerely wish it wasn't. When we say this or that work of fiction is "relevant", we typically leave off the phrase to our lives as they are now or something of that ilk. We tend to think of Gravity's Rainbow or better yet something like Charles Stross's Rule 34 as "relevant" because they are about things that are immediate or of our current moment in time. It's reassuring to read fiction (or anything at all, really) that understands what kind of world we currently live in and makes some attempt to address its vagaries and difficulties.Read more
Tags: B.R. Meyers Bret Easton Ellis Charles Dickens Charles Stross Flight of the Vajra Hans Fallada Harriet Beecher Stowe Isaac Asimov Jay McInerney literature Machado De Assis science fiction Thomas Pynchon writing