Are Writers Too 'Damned Dainty and Polite'?

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Like many, Ted Genoways grieves for the retreat of fiction from American magazines. Unlike many, he pins some of the blame on today's writers. Genoways commands writers to change their outlook, abandoning "navel-gazing" and making their prose less "damned dainty and polite." He also has advice for universities--writers' "de facto patrons"--many of which have begun ditching their literary reviews. If they embrace the opportunity to fill holes left by collapsing media, a few "bold university presidents" could "save American literature, reshape journalism, and maybe even rescue public discourse from the cable shout shows and the blogosphere."

Even then, however, writers will have to shape up:

I'm not calling for more pundits ... I'm saying that writers need to venture out from under the protective wing of academia, to put themselves and their work on the line. Stop being so damned dainty and polite. Treat writing like your lifeblood instead of your livelihood. And for Christ's sake, write something we might want to read.

Why are today's writers "so damned dainty and polite"? Perhaps more importantly: what's the cure?

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.