The Legacy of Our Literature

An Essay By Timothy // 8/9/2006

It only takes a brief glance at the sheer volume of books on the market to make it painfully obvious that writing books is a popular thing to do nowadays. And as a result, libraries and bookstores are flooded with novel upon novel ad nauseam. The public demand for novels is seemingly insatiable. In consequence, writers crank out book after book after book, in very short periods of time.

As with anything that is mass-produced, quality has been sacrificed for the sake of getting the books on the market. After all, it would take some doing to write three full-length novels in the space of one year (as popular novelist Ted Dekker did) and actually make them high-quality. Meanwhile, the general public provides no incentive for authors to strive for quality writing. The cry from the consumer is simply “Entertain me!” and the authors kindly oblige. Once a novel is finished, it is put away to collect dust while the reader searches for his next literary high. The value, significance, and relevance of each individual book is irrelevant, as long as the readers is entertained.

So now, we have thousands upon thousands of cheap novels flooding the stores and libraries, recycling tired old plots merely for their entertainment value. For instance, consider the simple, age-old theme of a psychopathic murderer, terrorizing unsuspecting people. So many modern books have been written with this basic theme it would be impossible to count them all. They grip the reader’s attention and, if the story is well-played out, they give the reader a sense of satisfaction and fulfillment at the end. But in truth, none of them have any quality to make them stand out above the crowd. Fifty years from now, in all likelihood they will be forgotten.

What modern literature desperately needs is more creativity. The kind of creativity that can produce an entirely original story that will stand out from the crowd and be remembered. The kind of creativity that created The Lord of the Rings, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Pride and Prejudice, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, and so many others. It is a testament to such stories that since their publishing they have been so widely copied. Yet the copies are forgotten and the originals live on.

Along with creativity, these classics possess a polished quality. The authors focused hours upon hours of attention to correcting errors, expanding the story, clarifying situations, and making the plot well-rounded. Their concern was not so much with making money quickly as it was with producing a memorable, exceptionally written book. Such attention to quality is indeed rare in current literature.

Fortunately, there are some others today who honestly strive for originality and quality. Were it not for them, I would fear that post-modern literature will be entirely forgotten in the future. Fortunately, we have the power in our own pens to prevent that from happening.


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