The Crisis of Literature

Hardly a year goes by without a novelist, poet, or critic coming forward to express this sense of sourness, which is actually a compound of despair and resentment. Despair, because every department of literature seems to undergoing crisis, a multiple organ failure of the kind that leads inevitably to death; resentment because of the contemporary American writer’s sense that he has been like the final investor in a Ponzi scheme, having bought into the venerable enterprise of literature only to discover that it is on the verge of default.

Adam Kirsch in his Why Trilling Matters, offers this quotation before revealing that it comes not from any contemporary soothsayers of the demise of literature, but was written in 1952 by Lionel Trilling.

Of Kirsch’s book I am torn; the reviews are good, but I have found Trilling’s writing thought-provoking but tedious. The TLS review is available. Let me know if you have read it and found it worthwhile.

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