Novelist Rick Moody: The Recession Has Hurt Literature

The economic recession of the past few years has had a real effect on the way fiction writers are writing, says novelist Rick Moody. Writers are more "desperate" than they used to be, and, fearing they won't be published at all, are trying to fit their writing into ever-more-rigid conventional contemporary formats.

"My former students who are out there now trying to get published are having trouble on those lines," says Moody. "It’s the crazy great ones, the kind of mad ones who are really struggling to find people to publish them.  And not because the projects don’t have merit, but just because everybody’s looking at Bookscan and they want certain numbers of units to ship and so on.  That is going to affect people going forward, not only because we miss out but because when we miss out we then forget that the opportunity exists for that kind of experimental work."

In his Big Think interview, Moody also speaks about how the immediacy of digital culture is taking its toll on fiction reading and writing. "On the one hand you have a foreign digital culture that’s really about haste and about getting to the meat of the subject as quickly as possible and then moving onto the next thing," he says. "And on the other hand, with literary objects, literary cultural artifacts, you have a form that’s about taking its time and doing what it needs to do in a really prolonged and almost lazy way.  So, the two seem inimical to one another."

Moody speaks about his own writing as well, and, in particular, his habit of writing without an outline. "I don’t want to have to sit at the keyboard and act like a slave to some outline," says Moody. "I think that that makes the work structurally manipulative in a way.  I can’t learn things about the characters.  I can’t discover aspects of them I didn’t know about earlier on if this character absolutely has to go to the shopping mall and pull out a submachine gun."