I’m about to defend my MFA thesis, that is, the oral exam part of it. The written exam was a three-part essay that explored my own work. The main discovery that cropped up again and again inside my head was that I’m bored with most of the fiction that’s out there, even that which gets accolades. Then today I found a Paris Review interview with Dennis Cooper, who I’ve read and admired for many of the same reasons I admire other writers who aren’t considered “mainstream.” He voices my own thoughts here.
What are normal novels?
Too much story, too much realism, too much overfamiliarity in general. They bought into the traditional, majority approach and opinion among American writers and arbiters of literature that life is most effectively depicted in fiction via one streamlined, time-proven method—the narrative arc, the sympathetic character, the snowballing plot, et cetera—and when I read work like that, all I saw were the writers’ slight variations on a central formula that seemed reductive and arbitrary and bogus.