The Direction of Modern Literature

–by Molly Schreiber 


Chuck Klosterman, deemed to be the author of “one of the brightest pieces of pop analysis to appear this century,” posits a number of undeniably profound statements concerning the fragility of human existence.  One such assertion is his claim that, inevitably, our carefully made marks upon society will inevitably disappear over time.  Our pastimes, our music, our art– all will eventually perish, no matter how profound or insightful.  It is his prerogative to accept the idea that “temporality is part of truth,” but does it mean that this train of thought is correct? Is it even logical? Is this seemingly dark and dismal assertion of the insignificance of human thought incontrovertibly…dare we say it… true?

His thought provoking prose into the modern penchant to ignore reality and strive for perfection is eerily familiar, like the cliffs-notes for a play in which we have all performed.  The disconcerting manner in which he describes societal tendencies is both haunting and, at times, embarrassing.  Klosterman’s talent for observing the idealistic and unflattering inclinations of pop culture paints a vivid picture of the elusive ways in which we deal with the unimportance of our presence in this world.  While not necessarily cynical, Klosterman utilizes a “logical” analysis for our desire for “fake love” and “manufactured emotions” that are, to put it quite simply, unattainable.

Klosterman presents the reader with damning evidence that life is kind of, for lack of a better word, pointless. Yet, somehow, in an Eggers-esq approach, Klosterman finds a way to illustrate his gloomy point with a broad smile and a peculiarly upbeat demeanor.  This impossibly frustrating sense of indifference toward our lack of power and the maddening ability to accept this dreary predicament seems to be the prevailing philosophy of the new generation of literary geniuses.  The prevalence of this theme seems to suggest that our generation will be marked by a paradoxically positive team of pessimists.  And I can’t help but wonder whether this identity is a positive label or the mark of a lack of true talent. Where are the Hemingways. the Salingers, or the Steinbecks? While some may disagree, I find myself longing for a book of hopeful substance instead of cynical analysis.


3 responses to “The Direction of Modern Literature

  1. I would certainly agree about the tendency of modern literature to encompass that “pessimistic optimism” ethos, especially with what I’ve read of Eggers. I would also say, though, that Hemingway, Salinger, and Steinbeck wrote some pretty damn depressing stuff, oftentimes without any prevailing sense of hope. There may in fact be more cynicism – or at least despondency – in the great early-to-mid-20th century literature than in the kind of modern Kite Runner pop-lit that seems to always want to force an awkward smile on the final page.

  2. Surprisingly, for me at least, so much of the stuff written in that Golden Age of the roaring twenties is horribly depressing. For a time when all these guys were rich and jetsetting and having a great time, they were decently dispondent. Let us not forget Faulkner’s ability to turn the South into the darkest, most fucked up place on the planet, or Fitzgerald’s Great Gatsby, where beauty and greatness are trampled underneath selfishness and greed.

  3. Klosterman is infinitely interesting to me. I read Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs, and he has really out-there but applicable theories about life. Like how The Sims is a microcosm of postmodern state of living, how Zach Morris and Saved by the Bell was a great show in its extreme terribleness and predictability, and how love music and love movies set everyone up for an impossible goal. It’s a crazy philosophy-journalism mashup type of deal.

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