The Novel as Cultural Criticism

The first thing I want novels to do is entertain. Ask the Dust. Post Office. Hangover Square. All terrific. I smile as the pages flip.

And after that, I want them to make me it novels as cultural criticism. It makes for a pretty fascinating lens to read a yarn through. Beyond the narrative, Catcher in the Rye can be seen as post-war distrust of "traditional American values," or a rally-cry of individualism in the face of conformity; Steinbeck’s Grapes of Wrath as an anti-capitalistic screed; To Kill a Mockingbird as the not-so-color-blind scales of "justice"; On the Road as the bellwether for the American counterculture; The Sun Also Rises as a study of PTSD and the wounded masculinity of life post-war.

So, without overplaying my novel's hand too much, let me just say that THIS INTRIGUING ARTICLE has much to do with some of the underpinnings in what I hope is Chinese Gucci’s subtle cultural critique. It was a pleasant surprise, moving from draft to draft – learning that I’d started out writing about someone fake, only to discover just how much it all had to do with me personally and my life’s experiences. See, when I first tried writing novels, I figured you just made up a bunch of stuff.

Not so.

If you're doing it right, I now think there’s no way to avoid writing about yourself. Hopefully not in an obvious way – as the characters in the book are nothing like me. And yet: there is something familiar in all of them...something my Jungian shadow responds to, those rusty little hooks hiding in the subconscious! Novels are nothing if not an extraordinary vehicle for both learning about ourselves, and for exacting revenge in some literary way! On the surface, hopefully it’s a story that is unique and surprising enough to keep you turning pages – and beneath that, a deep, cold ocean. Think of it as a long-form debunking of all those lousy things about the world that I’ve foolishly always hoped I could fix!