Best American Fiction

As reported (unscientifically) in the NYTimes Book Review section.
In an essay about this quest, the writing is characterized as “a hybrid (crossbred of romance and reportage, high philosophy and low gossip, wishful thinking and hard-nosed skepticism),” possibly suggesting a mix-n-match style to aspiring writers in any genre. In addition to forcing questions about cultural assumptions we must wonder, as suggested by A. O. Scott, “in the age of James Frey, reality television and phantom W.M.D.’s, what do we mean by ‘fiction’?”
Perhaps the meteoric rise of the winner, Beloved, by Toni Morrison is because of what Scott labels its “essential conservatism…which aimed not to displace or overthrow its beloved precursors, but to complete and to some extent correct them.” Perhaps, despite the rhetoric of its radicalness at the time, it wasn’t “too” radical and thus discountable, but still far enough within the system to be eventually accepted by it? Did Morrison find that delicate balance between activism that inspires and that which triggers backlash?
Scott also identifies a preoccupation with the recent past as a theme in American novels: “how heavily the past lies.” This might be one way to characterize the discipline of communication in a nutshell, for good or ill. :-/ That, and its opposite: how lightly the future calls.

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