Review of Back to Blood. Brian Murray, The Weekly Standard, December 3, 2012.
It’s been almost 25 years since Tom Wolfe issued a call for “the new social novel.” His 1989 manifesto, “Stalking the Billion-Footed Beast,” argued that, since the end of the Second World War, American novelists had lost their way, having convinced themselves that the high calling of Art required “highly refined forms of fiction” designed to appeal to an ever-narrowing band of sophisticated readers.
Some sought critical approval by offering up strenuously clever “fictions” based on the theory that the novel was “first and foremost a literary game.” For them, realism was passé, a method for middlebrows like John O’Hara and Irwin Shaw. As the once-faddish John Hawkes declared: “I began to write fiction on the assumption that the true enemies of the novel were plot, character, setting, and theme.” Others did write about real situations, but only “very tiny ones, tiny domestic ones, for the most part, usually in lonely Rustic Septic Tank Rural settings,” claimed Wolfe. These novelists, the so-called Minimalists, specialized “in a deadpan prose composed of disingenuously short, simple sentences—with the emotions anesthetized, given a shot of Novocain.”
The Weekly Standard