Friday, July 09, 2004


Perusing my stack of Granta magazines, I happened upon Issue No. 8, entitled 'Dirty Realism: New Writing From America'. I'm not sure of the origin of this genre [i.e. who first coined the phrase], but its poster boy appears to have been Raymond Carver. The reason for using the past tense here is twofold: Carver is dead, ostensibly the result of living the rough and tumble life of a typical dirty realist; the other reason is that the genre is dead, but that's just my opinion.

If the purpose of dirty realism was anything, it was to portray the seedy underbelly of multiform lives lived in America. I'm not sure why Granta, a UK publication, decided that this type of writing was a decidedly American phenomenon. Though I have nothing to back this up, I suspect that writing about the more unsavoury elements of various subcultures in society was going on in other countries too. The genre, wherever it originated, however it was perpetuated, had to have been a product of the times: it was the eighties, man. If someone wasn't getting high, they were probably having meaningless sex [in a pre-HIV world], and if they were doing both simultaneously, it was bestseller material, to be sure [think McInerney]. Reeks more of dirty realism-lite to me [i.e. dirty realism is neither dirty nor realistic: discuss].

I suppose that the essence of dirty realism was meant to be this: life isn't pretty, in fact, it's pretty ugly, and it'll probably get uglier. The future will tell, and it has...

And that's why the genre is dead. This kind of writing is no longer interesting or innovative. It is merely commonplace. Walking out your front door in the morning is a dirty enough prospect.

*Taken from Julian Cope's Peggy Suicide album.

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