Madison Smartt Bell, Daniel Kehlmann, Richard Flanagan, Dana Spiotta, Lydia Millet, Dubravka Ugresic, Norman Rush, Valerie Martin, Claire Messud, Margot Livesey, Zakes Mda, and Siddhartha Deb
Flannery O'Connor warned us some fifty years ago that any work of fiction burdened with instructional intent was doomed to become a tract. Or as Sam Goldwyn is reported to have said, "If you want to send a message, use Western Union."
Most American novelists seem to act on these principles (whether or not they've actually heard them announced). And there is something quite sound in the idea that flaming political passions make for bad art. The fact that it is extremely difficult to define the boundaries of any event while it's happening has led American novelists to approach political events historically, as Tolstoy did in War and Peace. Thus the major flowering of Vietnam-related fiction did not come until the 1980s, well after the war had ended. Thus Denis Johnson's 2007 Tree of Smoke is
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