Externalism: An Exercise in Balance (or: Good Writing that Matters)



Somewhere in all of this history, the balance that existed in the beginning of literary tradition was lost, and with it, a thinking, reading audience.  Even the briefest study of literature that has stood the test of time—from Homer to Shakespeare and Eliot to Frost, up to contemporary giants like Isaac Asimov—shows that people value balanced literature.  Who can deny that Hamlet was extremely well-written, but also educational (historically and morally), inspiring, and entertaining?  Who could argue that Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 wasn’t beautifully written, meaningful, entertaining, and also belongs to mainstream genre fiction?  Who could say that Louise Glück’s poetry is not both accessible and meaningful while exhibiting extreme adeptness with language and poetic devices?

We writers have forsaken the most obvious of writing rules: think of your audience and write for them.  In search of ways to boost our own egos and make our way the right way, we’ve created an unforeseen, but entirely understandable, problem for ourselves.  Our work is read only by other writers, and then only by other writers who either share our literary ideologies or vehemently disagree with them.  In the meantime, mediocre (and sometimes downright bad) literature has been absorbing the reading market because the audience could give two hoots about our literary politics.  To compound the issue, instead of learning from the successes of these individuals, we shrug them off and blame the movies and (sin of all sins!) the readership for our lack of similar success. 

Read the complete essay at www.theexternalist.com and considering submitting your best writing for the debut issue.


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