Have “postmodern” and “postwar” have become outmoded as classifications for novels? Lorentzen suggests it’s more useful to look at trends in fiction relative to the administration they were released under. During Obama’s, he says, novelists looked to answer questions of authenticity. During Trump’s, he anticipates dystopian narratives.
The story of Charles Manson, from Jeff Guinn’s new book Manson:
Manson: The Life and Times of Charles Manson is a cradle-to-grave treatment, though the graves belong to other people. The subject remains in California, an inmate at Corcoran State Prison, where he issues statements his followers disseminate via the website of his Air Trees Water Animals organisation. A recent example: ‘We have two worlds that have been conquested by the military of the revolution. The revolution belongs to George Washington, the Russians, the Chinese. But before that, there is Manson. I have 17 years before China. I can’t explain that to where you can understand it.’ Neither can I. Guinn explains a lot in his usefully linear book. The standard Manson text, Helter Skelter, the 1974 bestseller by his prosecutor, Vincent Bugliosi, and true-crime writer Curt Gentry, is a police and courtroom procedural, with no shortage of first-person heroics (‘During my cross-examination of these witnesses, I scored a number of significant points’); the first corpse is discovered on page six. No one is murdered in Guinn’s book until page 232. He brings a logic of cause and effect to the madness.
Today’s guest pick comes from Christian Lorentzen, editor for the London Review of Books.
And so Martin Amis and his wife, the author Isabel Fonseca, are coming to Cobble Hill. And what’s it like being a writer in Brooklyn? “I expect it’s like writing in Manhattan,” Colson Whitehead once wrote in The New York Times, “but there aren’t as many tourists walking very slowly in front of you when you step out for coffee.” More likely, there are other writers walking in front of you. It’s a zone of infestation. Not only of novelists but reporters, pundits, poets and those often closeted scribblers who call themselves editors and agents. Not to mention bloggers, or whatever counts for being an online writer these days.