from the LAT article by Scott Timberg
"Some of the issue's judges — besides Jack and White, novelist A.M. Homes, Slate's Meghan O'Rourke, Granta Publisher Sigrid Rausing and City Lights' Paul Yamazaki — were dismayed by the lack of attention to social class in the work of these young novelists across the ethnic and national spectrum.
O'Rourke, for instance, noted that the U.S. is increasingly economically polarized, but the young writers she read didn't seem particularly interested. She made a pitch to the other judges to look for writers with less posh backgrounds, or who seem interested in classes besides their own.
Jack too was disappointed to see so few novels reaching outside the middle or upper classes, especially in contrast to the days, just a decade ago, when Raymond Carver-influenced trailer-park novels were in vogue. (Even if they were often written by trust-fund kids, he noted.)
"In America all class analysis is forbidden," White wrote in his assessment. "It's as if the conflict and alienation offered in, say, the British novel by encounters with members of other, lower social classes are replaced in America by contrasts of First and Third World cultures."
"American novels," said Jack, "have become a bit like American films used to be. The question of money, of how do I keep myself alive, those questions were never addressed in American films because everybody was supposed to be jolly happy all the time and living well; their troubles were not financial."
And the reason may come from the increasing class insularity of the literary life.
"To go through this process of creative writing schools, now, to become a budding novelist, more and more means you need a certain amount of ancestral wealth. I hate to sound like a Marxist, but economics does govern a lot of life, especially cultural life."
Edmund White, novelist and judge called it the "Peace Corps novel," where privileged young Americans encounter the Third World.
It is interesting what does and does not mark a work worthy of an award, likewise what topics and trends qualify a work as Literary.
I raised an eyebrow over this, but then remembered that I'm a lost cause: I doubt I'll ever write a novel that qualifies as Literary Fiction, nor do I really have a desire to read Literary Fiction. Is it because I don't have an MFA? I'll never know.
In the meantime, if a novel has a chase scene, otherworldly dimensions or creatures, FBI investigations, intrigue or a little guy with a lightning bolt shaped scar on his head, I know I will enjoy it.