Novelty Versus Originality?
I am getting back into the threads of discussions here, after really trailing off the last month or so for finals. This is a idea for a discussion that's been knocking around in the back of my head for a while now, and so I will be channeling my inner Eric for this piece of pedantry.
Recently I went off to Borders, the local multi-million dollar bookstore chain, and technically a division of Barnes and Nobles. In this case, (in Flowood, MS, a suburb of Jackson), it's the only non-Christian bookstore around, and it struck me you can tell a lot about an area by what its bookstore carries. Everything of course was divided into genres, with a "Literature" corner with literary and "mainstream" books and a few head-scratchers, (like Nicholas Sparks). I was looking to build up a little Japanese literature section in my library with Christmas money. I found no copies of Yasunari Kawabata, Kenzaburo Oe, Natsume Soseki, Yukio Mishima, nor could I find No Longer Human by Osamu Danzai. There were, however, 13 books by Haruki Murikami. I thumbed through them, Kafka on the Shore, Chasing Sheep or something of that name, and other books. All of them struck me as trite and I wasn't struck enough by any to front up 15 dollars, even though I kind of wanted to buy one and probably will buy Kafka on the Shore eventually.
Afterwards, once back home with my small, but expensive stack of books, (W.H. Auden's collected poems, How Are We Hungry, by Dave Eggers, a Short Story collection which I hope to review soon and introduce people to Eggers, and The Princess Bride by William Goldman, the comical fantasy story captured in one of my favorite movies), I began reconsidering some of my old discussions. We've had plenty of occasionally virulent arguments on post-modernism, that strike me as rather exhausting now.
These often convoluted arguments have a rather simple basis. And there the title of this thread comes in. The counterpoint is novelty versus originality. While many here are more fond of or less critical of novelty than me, (and this is, I suppose a completely valid opinion), but I tend to think writers substitute novelty for talent and originality. The current writing climate, judged by the towers of Academia, hopelessly marred by the convoluted, novelty-loving tastes of pedantic professors, tends to encourage this. But this opens the difficult question: what is the difference between novelty and originality, where does one become the other? The question I've been considering was whether something can be "too original". That's where the demarcation emerges I think, but there is of course the added contradiction that its easier to substitute things like story and character development for stylism and it's easier to be flashy than to have the real substance that marks something that I find truly compelling.
So the question I pose is, what are your thoughts? Do you like novelty, (I find it maddeningly trite and pompous), what do you see as the difference between novelty and originality? Etc etc? I think this is the main problem with postmodernism, obviously, and whether it is all flash and no substance, which are related. In a way, novelty, to me, is something that insults the reader and flaunts the bond and obligations of storytelling.
Anyway, this is the question I'll be taking up again when I discuss Dave Eggers. One of the reasons I appreciate his work is his ability to be fresh and original, without quite descending into novelty, (and How Are We Hungry is the most manageable of his works, as it consists of short stories, which are easier to digest, being small chunks). It's good to have time for armchair debates again, and I hope to post a few new reviews soon.
Frohliche Weihnachten WFL
Last edited by waalkwriter; 22-Dec-2010 at 17:06.
"I am not young enough to know everything" -Oscar Wilde
"The best way to protect your place in this world is to do nothing at all." -From Ikiru