notes from the field: you can’t squeeze any more juice from the pulp

squeezing juice from the pulp

Unfortunately, the flavor in the caffeine-free latte served up in the second half of Agency was no stronger than in the first half. It singularly failed to give enough of a jolt to get me to care about the fates any of the characters – not even those facing the threat of a nuclear war in their stub.

I see that the novel has attracted a distinct duality of reviews on Amazon. There are those who love it for the elegance and cleverness of the prose and the insights it allegedly sheds on our own tumultuous times. Then there are others who, as one disappointed fan so aptly put it, “suppose there comes a time when you can’t squeeze any more juice from the pulp.” I am in the latter camp – but don’t just take my word for it. Go over to Amazon and see for yourself.

I can’t help wondering if my own disappointment with Agency isn’t in part fueled by my frustration at the lack of original fiction being produced right now. Don’t get me wrong: there are plenty of high-quality novels coming out every year – but none that absolutely knock it out of the part like Gibson did with Neuromancer or Kerouac with On the Road.

Listening to the New York Times Books and the BBC’s Books and Authors podcasts has almost become a chore. Why does so much modern mainstream literature have to be so preachy and pious in tone? Why do so many modern authors feel they need to pack their books with pre-approved messages on the values we should care about and how we should think and live? And why do so many modern critics feel they have to interject their political views into their reviews of a book?

Far from making them sound clever and insightful, the utterances of our self-styled intelligentsia show their thoughts to be even more banal than those of the rest of us. It’s no wonder that more and more people are switching from our traditional cultural gatekeepers to podcasts and newsletters produced by independent creators.

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