I'm going to be leading a fiction workshop for young, emerging writers next month and I plan to bring up some points made by a group of editors and agents in the March/April issue of Poets & Writers magazine.

An editor at FSG states: "Beyond a good story, beyond good writing, does the novel feel necessary? A lot of good books are written, and I'm not saying that they shouldn't be published . . . the ones I tend to be drawn to are the ones that either feel personally necessary or globally necessary in some vague way that's hard to define."

I think more than ever in these hard economic times, whether we are writing a comedic genre series or a serious literary novel, we need to bring something fresh, necessary to the table. (Of course, this doesn't apply to best-selling writers who already have a strong readership base.)

What do you think?

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I think calling a book "necessary" or "unnecessary" is a cover for a smug way to dismiss books. "Oh, this book is well-written, but it's not necessary." "The author is an accomplished talent, but was the last novel really necessary?" This smells like hipster douche bag-ism.

Was "Jurassic Park" necessary? Probably not. It did sell a lot of copies, though. It remains one of favorites despite how commercialized it became.

I'd like to think authors don't consider whether a novel is necessary. Just write and hope for the best.
Is any art really necessary?
Oh, yes!

Dear God, what a miserable world this would be without art.

I feel so strongly about this that I have forgiven all the excesses of renaissance princes because they have given us art that will live forever. The same is true of much architecture of the past, and destroying the great works of past civilizations is perhaps the worst crime there is.
You might not feel the same about the Renaissance princes if you were one of the poor buggers building the architectural marvel, or working dawn to dusk at his whim to provide for his life style.

I, too, am an admirer of great works of past civilizations, but destroying them, even wantonly, falls somewhat below murder, rape, child abuse, slavery, and a few other things I could think of in my personal Pantheon of detestable acts.
Sorry, can't go along with that. Abuses happen in all generations. They happen now. At least the money went to support artists and give something back.
"destroying the great works of past civilizations is perhaps the worst crime there is."

So you'd rather see a close relative killed than the Mona Lisa defaced?
Depends on the relative. Do I get to choose?
It's a silly comparison. We don't get to choose. Every life is at the mercy of larger forces, and our individual sense of right ot wrong is immaterial. All I know is that many generations of human beings have had their lives enriched by art. Art gives them something to live for, to dream about, to aim for. It helps them forget momentarily their misery. You cannot put a price on that. And you cannot rob future generations of that.

Why are you writing, if you don't believe in the importance of what you do?
If you truly believe writing and art are "necessary," it must be because they enrich the soul. To say you believe that, then, in the next breath say "our individual sense of right or wrong is immaterial" is disingenuous at best.

No doubt art helps many people to "momentarily forget their misery;" let's not forget how much of that misery may have been caused by the creation of that work of art, the pleasure of its enjoyment having been denied to them. Or, in the case of the medieval princes referenced above, the work of art may have been denied to anyone not considered to be born "noble" enough to share it.

Why am I writing? I enjoy it, and I have received feedback that others enjoy reading, and, frankly, I enjoy receiving that feedback. I will never confuse what I do with timeless art, but it can still help people "forget momentarily their misery," if only to give them a laugh or provide an interesting tale to hold their interest. That's noble enough for me.
I'd interpreted that "Is it necessary?" comment as meaning: Does it contribute to the cultural conversation?

Or at least the conversation that young editors in NY have at cocktail parties.

Ever notice how many novels from major houses are set in New York City?
Is this true for crime fiction? I actually know very little crime fiction set in New York.


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