Dubravka Ugresic’s THANK YOU FOR NOT READING
During a brief Thanksgiving getaway with my hubbie, I finished the 2003 English translation of Dubravka Ugresic’s essay collection Thank You for Not Reading. This is the third Ugresic book I’ve read this year, and definitely my favorite. She does a fine job of pointing out how literature has been trivialized in the age of conglomerate publishing, but she’s not foaming at the mouth or resorting to over-the-top sarcasm to do so. No, she’s merely rolling her eyes. She’s using dry humor to express her embarrassed exasperation with it all.
Her perspective is particularly interesting since she’s originally from Eastern Europe, and compares corporate fiction (shall we call it CorpFic for short?) to the kitschy, coerced optimism and mass appeal of Soviet-era literary socialist realism.
Take, for example, this quote from page 27:
Contemporary market literature is realistic, optimistic, joyful, sexy, explicitly or implicitly didactic, and intended for the broad reading masses. As such, it ideologically remolds and educates the working people in the spirit of personal victory, the victory of some good over some evil. It is socialist realist.
While I think most will agree that CorpFic is no longer confined to the “realistic” (speculative fiction is a big part of it, too), I think all the other adjectives still fit. And I think it’s a shame.
Incidentally, last week Ugresic was the topic of an (all-too-brief) article in The New Yorker.
Those wanting to order her book can check out this buy link.