Woodwork & Wallpapers

Even though the mastery, or third-eye, in this business of fiction writing still evades me, both as a science and an art, I can distinguish that there are a million writers now emerging from the woodwork and wallpapers. Perhaps, make that a billion writers out there. And this may be for many fine motives. The most expedient of which is the mainstreaming and commercialization of literature as a magic-bullet reply to the demise of the reading culture that we now have to stomach as a matter of present reality. Or maybe because write we must. Maybe because we can now win little awards for writing. What better outlet for the loud of mind? Who else would tell our stories correctly?

However, demand is not meeting supply. Since readers have refused to read, we must now take the proverbial mountain to Mohammed – as we are fast running out of useful alternatives. Let’s go commercial, guerrilla writery is in play. And so the dwindling demand for readership is met with the wanton supply of new age writers, mostly as partial authors who have adapted novel tactics to capture the attention and essence of an intellectually simpler, highly temperamental audience – by whatever means necessary.

Without being blasphemous to purists, this is a good problem to have. The deliberate mainstreaming of literature can be construed as a remarkably blessed venture: take Chimamanda Ngozi-Adichie’s essentially mainstreamed Africanist texts (all but her ‘Purple Hibiscus’, a classic travesty of nascent writery, personally speaking). Her work has essentially fueled what has become a new wave of younger, audacious African writers – such as myself. A new problem then emerges: we can cite a laundry list of so-called new age writers and books that are rightly cringe-worthy, such malevolent works of brazen malfiction gain their own share of the mainstream, as there will always be a loyal reader for every manner of loyal writing. And somewhere in there, short-form writing has become the go-to tonic for shorter attention spans.

Arguably, it can be argued that the propagation of celebrity writery has added to today’s watered-down art of writing and the crops of writers, so that the need to – by fractional writing alone – attain silver-screen status can be faulted well. There is of course, nothing terribly transgressive with celebrated writers, as some rightfully should be, being gods or dogs of literature in their own right, yet one worries about the legacy we leave behind for the next wave of writers bursting through the cracks. Some writers have been known to skillfully take to what was once seen as transgress convention, a la short form writing on social media. And by so doing, they have used the remedy that is fast-writing and fast-reading on social media to fashion great incidents of art. These ingenious ones will dismantle the writing styles of great artistes and narrative theories and develop styles of their own that often begin as an acquired taste, and in other precious cases, work their way up to innovation of writing.

Because of said trends in writing, the practice of what used to be Gold era or Beat generation writing becomes gravely adulterated by the tremors of a less engaged, more enraged, civilization – and this has become an entirely marvelous state of affairs for new and old writers.

However, some have argued that this mutation of/in literature is welcome, we must adapt to the times. Evolve, they say. It should be cheered on if it must. It may perhaps breed revolutions in writing such as we have come to find in peculiar places like with some sinful blogs on being a ‘great writer’, Twitter flash fictions in 140 characters, or Instagram off-cut posts drafted as typewriter summaries (with actual typos for genuineness), and other such commodified mechanisms of writing-for-display that I have surely donated to myself at some point in time. This state of affairs, according to one Peter Lunenfield “creates an environment of continuous partial production”. But it is not an entirely rotten way to be, perhaps better this style of short-form writing than the painful breeding of non-readers, a readerless society.

It can be argued by purists that a fearsome majority of these audacious and ravenous writers, while following the light in the corridor of this proclaimed literary revolution, are for all intents inclined to be self-regarding by default. They are occupied with personal identity as a matter of private compulsion as a way to tell us of who they really are, show us their true colors, what makes them pulsate, what marvelous horrors of life that have texturized them so far in quiet, unique ways, so much so that the contaminate the writing with personal matters. You read the fullness of their exertions in typewriter snippets, a glance through the carefully penned summation of what they are about, and it becomes self-evident: they somehow manage to become the total subjects of their own work, the central agency, the delicate problem, and then the powerful solution unto themselves. And you worry about this one-sided talent – and it is a talent – the ability to insert yourself in your own way even in partial productions.

This and many other such nuances would compose the very nature of literature as we know it in years to come. And while some other literary formalists hold down the vitriolic offense at the back of their gullets at this so-called progression in the age of short-form, social media writery, a few others will break set literary circumferences and hazard into already experimented monarchies of writing, but armed with powerful questions of their own, so that at the culmination of this performance, they would, no less, write newer wonders but with a devilish ability to do this entirely as literary pariahs. And there would be many undevised consequences for this, some of them admissible as works of genius art and many more that would incite exceptional repugnancy.