Cover image for A reader's manifesto : an attack on the growing pretentiousness in American literary prose
A reader's manifesto : an attack on the growing pretentiousness in American literary prose
Myers, B. R., 1963-
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
Hoboken, N.J. : Melville House, 2002.
Physical Description:
xv, 149 pages ; 17 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
PS362 .M94 2002 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

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Now available in book-length form for the first time, the manifesto that caused a sensation when it first appeared as an excerpt in the Atlantic Monthly includes a new essay addressing the storm of controversy elicited by its initial publication. In this updated version, Myers goes beyond merely taking on such literary giants as Don DeLillo, E Annie Proulx, and Cormac McCarthy, examining the literary hierarchy that perpetuates the status quo, questioning literary review and the awarding of literary prizes, and championing clear writing, finding it in a wide range of writers, from 'pop' novelists such as Stephen King to more 'serious' literary heavyweights such as W Somerset Maugham. Ending on a humorous note, Myers offers his 'Ten Rules for 'Serious' Writers'.

Author Notes

B.R. Myers was born in the US but raised in Bermuda, South Africa and Germany. He teaches North Korean studies in South Korea.

Reviews 1

Publisher's Weekly Review

Myers reports in this audacious broadside upon current American literary writing that, "at the 1999 National Book Awards ceremony, Oprah Winfrey told of calling Toni Morrison to say she had to puzzle repeatedly over many of the latter's sentences. Morrison's reply was, `That, my dear, is called reading.' " But Myers proclaims that it is in fact called "bad writing." Myers, a philologist and teacher of North Korean studies, declares that "the problem with so much of today's literature"-and critically acclaimed literature at that-is "the clumsiness of its artifice... a prose so repetitive, so elementary in its syntax, and so numbing in its overuse of wordplay that it often demands less concentration than the average `genre' novel," and he backs up this claim by tearing with gusto and wit into the prose of five authors: Don DeLillo, Annie Proulx, Cormac McCarthy, Paul Auster and David Guterson. If this sounds familiar, it's because the Atlantic published an abridgement of an earlier version of this book in 2001, drawing some applause but also fusillades from much of the lit-crit establishment. Included here are Myers's full arguments plus a meticulous rebuttal of his critics. Myers makes a serviceable, if debatable, case that DeLillo et al., and by extrapolation much of contemporary literary writing, have strayed from the clarity and artfulness of expression that earlier authors, from Woolf to Conrad to Bellow, achieved; and that the true heirs of yesterday's giants may be today's genre writers. What makes this entertaining book so important isn't the point-by-point relative correctness of Myers's argument, however, but that at last someone has dared to say, with energy and insight, what many have privately concluded: that at least some of our literary emperors are, if not without clothes, wearing some awfully gaudy attire, and that certain sectors of the lit-crit establishment have colluded in the sham, all at the expense of... readers. (Sept.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved