The only subject left to write about is the epilogue of Literature: the story of the people who pursue Literature, scratching on their knees for the traces of its passing. This is no mere meta-gamesmanship or solipsism; this is looking things in the face ... It’s time for literature to acknowledge its own demise rather than playing puppet with the corpse.
Is he serious? This is silliness, this is absurd. From the style of the manifesto itself, it’s hard to judge whether he’s being satirical or sarcastic, or if he’s really asserting what he believes to be true. Manifestos are full of pomp and grandeur, drenched in language that is bombastic, declamatory. Iyer’s is no exception. So I hunted the internet in search of his true intention and found that no, he was not joking. In a 3AM Magazine interview, he elaborates:
It is not simply that the relationship between literature and community has collapsed, nor even that literature is no longer in contact with politics. For me, the meaning of literature itself—the very possibility of literature—has collapsed. Literature, like left-wing politics, seems impossible ... I can only say that it seems to me that literature has, in some fundamental way, run its course.
What does this mean, "literature has run its course"? Is that why Iyer's book, Spurious, is so interchangeable with his blog, Spurious? To me, this is like saying sex has been slain by pornography, that eating is over because of fast food. People will always fuck and eat. Fucking and eating aren’t destroyed by depravities and deformations in their use. Yes, there is history and influence and philosophy and modern practice and all the rest. But there is still choice and there is still necessity.
Literature does not die, there is no end in it, it is something we do.
Rather than spend more time in inquiry and exasperation over this high intellectual dreariness, I’d like to simply present some evidence to the contrary. For intelligent discourse concerning the interaction of literature and culture, primarily in terms of how some of the more powerful influences and gatekeepers of culture present literature, I suggest an interesting piece by Roxane Gay up at the Rumpus. To see the existence of a literary magazine partially initiated because “we are tired of hearing that literary fiction is doomed,” check out Electric Literature. And to hear from a true professional about his interactions with the great beast of literature, I highly recommend this interview with Ben Marcus from Harper’s.
A quick glance at any one of these demonstrates that literature has not run its course, and, for a great number of people, does not seem impossible.