Saturday, May 09, 2009

What is Mark McGurl reading?

The current featured contributor at Writers Read: Mark McGurl, Associate Professor of English at the University of California, Los Angeles.

His new book is The Program Era: Postwar Fiction and the Rise of Creative Writing (Harvard University Press), about which Ed Park wrote: "In Mark McGurl's wide-ranging, audacious study, the academy comes to define postwar fiction in surprising ways. You won't think of most of your favorite authors quite the same way again."

Part of McGurl's entry:
At the outer edges of my research—in the sense that I don’t know exactly why I am reading it, or whether I will have anything to say about it when I am done—I have developed a fascination with contemporary secular apocalyptic fiction. The relevance of this body of work to our time is perhaps too obvious to go on about. What strikes me instead is how strong much of it is. “The Golden Age of Apocalyptic Fiction” would be an ironic label for our times, but it might be accurate.

A literary scholar like me is required to be suspicious of the patriarchal pathos of a work like Cormac McCarthy’s The Road, in which a father and son experience the end of the world as we know it, but I was moved by the novel anyway, and impressed with the grim authority of its vision. Margaret Atwood’s Oryx and Crake is more political in its sensibilities, and equally impressive. While McCarthy needs no other reason for the apocalypse than human damnation, Atwood traces the path to the collapse...[read on]
Read an excerpt from McGurl's The Program Era and learn more about the book at the Harvard University Press website. Visit Mark McGurl's UCLA webpage.

Writers Read: Mark McGurl.

--Marshal Zeringue