Somebody had to say it. Somebody had to attack the pretentious, unreadable prose that passes for literature these days. The writer of A Reader’s Manifesto: An Attack on Pretentiousness in American Literary Prose actually did. We seem to have lost our way, as far as producing good writing goes. Most of the books that garner good reviews today could use a lot of editing, being edgy substitutes for talent and clear thinking. A few cultural references and a cute cover photo and your unreadable mess is good to go. (Hello, Elizabeth Wurtzel.) Awards go to writers everyone else is afraid of, or who have vomited up the biggest, most tangled mass of verbiage.
When I first read A Reader’s Manifesto by B.R. Myers, I was thrilled. Someone had said what I was thinking. I have a high IQ, but could not get through the work of Don DeLillo. I knew E. Annie Proulx had talent, but I felt abused by the bizarre images she seems so fond of. We have to suffer as readers, I thought, or read novels with raised gold lettering. B.R. Myers says, maybe not. He makes a good case against the pretensions of these writers, among others.
Although I don’t agree with all of his choices, I agree with the underlying sentiment. This is a brave book by an outsider. He takes down a lot of naked emperors.
This book came out a few years ago, but no one has had the guts to say anything like it since. It still stands as a remarkable document.