As fun as it is to debunk the article as editorial fluff, I must take a defensive stance.
Nobody, in books, has all the knowledge. What we do have is the combined narrative matter of all our remembered favorites, and all our remembered discussions of books with others.
What Lev Grossman seems to be describing, to me, is not necessarily some grand sweeping pronouncement against all books. Instead, it seems like he’s describing a grand sweeping pronouncement about his own reading history and discoveries and beliefs.
It’s actually very easy for any well-read individual to make grand, sweeping statements based on their own experience, becasue it’s easy to believe we have achieved some level of mastery after all our time spent reading.
If this were on his personal blog, I wouldn’t bat an eye. I might roll one. I know I’ve caused a few eye rolls in my day.
It’s the fact that this article passed muster at the Wall Street Journal, of all places, that makes me bat an eye. I know my grand sweeping statements on my blog have no place in Locus, The Sacramento Bee, or anything like it. That’s why they’re on my blog.
Nothing makes one feel like one is scribbling in a ghetto than to watch The New Torker, the Wall Street Journal, and other lions of mainstream media report so poorly on what’s happening out here on the edge of the imagination. They’re all such smart, erudite, well-meaning folks, too.
I hope the Wall Street Journal contacts someone like Ellen Datlow, Cheryl Morgan, Cory Doctorow, Jeff VanderMeer, John Scalzi, or any one of our many eloquent, knowledgable representatives that can actually write meaningfully about what’s happening over here, and what that means to the rest of the world, the next time they want to publish something celebrating our little corner of the bookstore.