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Apocalypse Literary

The LA Times’ Scott Timberg fashions a trend piece out of three recent novels dealing with life after apocalypse: Cormac McCarthy‘s THE ROAD, Chris Adrian‘s THE CHILDREN’S HOSPITAL and most recently, Matthew Sharpe‘s JAMESTOWN. Add in other related fare by Carolyn See, Daniel Alarcon and David Mitchell and Timberg is right to wonder what’s in the water to produce all this end-of-the-world type of fiction.

The simple answer, Timberg says, is that the attacks of 9/11 and the Iraq war have brought a sense of unease and vulnerability to both artists and audiences. Growing worries about global warming and the greater visibility of the Christian right — Protestant fundamentalists, for whom the apocalypse is not metaphor, are thought to have swung the last two presidential elections — have brought the end of the world in from the shadows. But Steve Erickson offers a more literary viewpoint, saying this new emphasis also has to do with a blurring of lines between literary and genre fiction. “Twenty years ago, there was still an insularity to a lot of fiction, especially work put out by the New York publishing houses. It was still doing Raymond Carver and that neorealist minimalist thing. It regarded the futurism that’s kind of implicit in apocalyptic writing as kind of lowbrow.” Now, Erickson said, “there’s a new generation of writers who are more involved with other things happening in the culture.”

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