A massive process of literary rebirth is under way. Everyone seems to understand and accept this golden age except the writers themselves. Colson Whitehead titled his Grantland series about playing in the World Series of Poker “Occasional Dispatches from the Republic of Anhedonia,” but it could just as easily apply to a country of writers generally, naturally given to feeling downtrodden at the best of times. Zadie Smith’s recent advice on the writing life in The Guardian was hilariously bleak: “Resign yourself to the lifelong sadness that comes from never being satisfied.” The most startlingly contradictory case is Jonathan Franzen. In 1996, he wrote his famous “end of the novel” essay for Harper’s Magazine. The novel was so dead that The Corrections sold nearly three million copies. Then, during the tour for Freedom, he told Terry Gross that he had imagined that he could at least hand-sell a couple hundred copies on the book tour and maybe those people would tell their friends to buy one as well. “Everyone decided we really don’t have to read novels anymore,” he said. This was around the same week he was on the cover of Time. Jonathan Franzen, perhaps it’s time to smile.
As Lily Tomlin once said, “We developed language because of our deep inner need to complain.” The whining by writers is not just untrue; it’s becoming embarrassingly untrue. New advice: Be grateful. Revel.