Synopses & Reviews
Available for the first time, the full-length, unexpurgated version of the essay that incited one of the most passionate literary controversies ever in American letters...
When the Atlantic Monthly first published an excerpted version of B. R. Myers's polemic in which he attacked literary giants such as Don DeLillo, Annie Proulx, and Cormac McCarthy, quoting their work extensively to accuse them of mindless pretension it caused a world-wide sensation.
But Myers's expanded version of the essay does more than just attack sanctified literary heavyweights. It also:
- Examines the literary hierarchy that perpetuates the status quo by looking at the reviews that the novelists in question received. It also considers the literary award system. "Rick Moody received an O. Henry Award in 1997," Myers observes, "whereupon he was made an O. Henry juror himself. And so it goes."
- Showcases Myers's biting sense of wit, as in the new section, "Ten Rules for 'Serious' Writers," and his discussion of the sex scenes in the bestselling books of David Guterson ("If Jackie Collins had written that," Myers says after one example, "reviewers would have had a field day.")
- Champions clear writing and storytelling in a wide range of writers, from "pop" novelists such as Stephen King to more "serious" literary heavyweights such as Somerset Maugham. Myers also considers the classics such as Balzac and Henry James, and recommends numerous other undeservedly obscure authors.
- Includes an all-new section in which Myers not only considers the controversy that followed the Atlantic essay, but responds to several of his most prominent critics.
Published on the one-year anniversary of the original Atlantic Monthly
essay, the new, expanded A Reader's Manifesto
contains B. R. Myers's fight on behalf of the American reader, arguing against pretension in so-called "literary" fiction, naming names and brilliantly exposing the literary status quo.
"[E]ntertaining...at last someone has dared to say, with energy and insight...that at least some of our literary emperors are, if not without clothes, wearing some awfully gaudy attire..." Publishers Weekly
"Myers's argument is an entertaining and passionate lament....In years to come, literary historians may look back on this manifesto and realise this was the moment at which...someone dared to say out loud that the emperor has no clothes." Robert McCrum, The Guardian (U.K.)
"Useful mischief...he's got the big stuff right." Jonathan Yardley, The Washington Post
"Everybody [in the literary community] seems to relish this sort of bomb-throwing....Myers' 'manifesto' (it's really more of a cranky lament) is a gauntlet thrown at the feet of literary critics everywhere....Myers has issued the kind of challenge that invites the literati to indulge in two of their favorite sports. The first is a hunched-shouldered grousing about the worthless dilettantes passing themselves off as writers these days; the second is a sort of apotheosis of indignation, in which critics...fend off the outrageous assault on their heroes and expound on the sublime, monumental, exultant and yet also intimate and consoling nature of the supreme pinnacles of the literary art....[The essay] skitters back and forth between a genuine grievance and the kind of pointless squabbling into which all 'who is a Great Writer' conversations ultimately devolve....[T]he section...that I most savored [was] Myers' scornful dismissal of what he calls 'the sentence cult' that is, critics who base their admiration for an author on the surpassing beauty of his or her sentences. Myers goes to great lengths to prove that such praises...are incorrect." Laura Miller, Salon.com
"Brilliantly written." The Times of London
"A welcome contrarian takes on the state of contemporary American literary prose." The Wall Street Journal
"Those who view the Manifesto
as an attack on the authors are missing the point. Whether one agrees with Myers about the quality of Proulx, McCarthy, et al, what matters most is the expression of dissenting opinion. The attack on Myers by mainstream critics and authors as detailed in the Epilogue is a perfect example of the righteousness of Myers's crusade....All great debates require a work of dissent, and Myers has done readers a favor by providing them with one so bold and entertaining." Chris Bolton, Powells.com
(read the entire Powells.com review
Now available in book-length form for the first time, the manifesto that caused a sensation when it first appeared as an excerpt in the Atlantic Monthly includes a new essay addressing the storm of controversy elicited by its initial publication. In this updated version, Myers goes beyond merely taking on such literary giants as Don DeLillo, E. Annie Proulx, and Cormac McCarthy, examining the literary hierarchy that perpetuates the status quo, questioning literary review and the awarding of literary prizes, and championing clear writing, finding it in a wide range of writers, from "pop" novelists such as Stephen King to more "serious" literary heavyweights such as W. Somerset Maugham. Ending on a humorous note, Myers offers his "Ten Rules for 'Serious' Writers."
Offers an indictment of contemporary literary writing, providing assessments of such writers as Don DeLillo, Cormac McCarthy, and Annie Proulx.
About the Author
B.R. Myers was born in the U.S. but raised in Bermuda, South Africa, and Germany. He teaches North Korean studies in South Korea.