I have no problem with the idea of a canon, and I love Spanish-language literary criticism with its freedom from the empty formulas that so often dominate criticism in English. So I was happy when I was asked to review Pozuelo Yvancos’s Spanish Novel of the 21st Century. It’s a great book, I loved reading it, but what’s really funny is that this critic’s understanding of what constitutes valuable literature is the exact opposite of mine.
Pozuelo Yvancos is an intense admirer of the deeply postmodern (while passionately rejecting the unprestigious label), with its verbal games, the narrators who are not really narrators but characters narrated by narrating narrators who are not narrators but characters, and the attendant precious cuteness. I agree that this kind of writing has the right to exist and that many people love it and good for them. I honestly can’t stand it, though. I like stories about unemployed carpenters who suffer because they can’t afford to care for their demented old dads. Or journalists who are fired from their jobs and can’t pay bills. Or young people who try to make a living from a patchwork of shitty part-time temp jobs. That kind of thing. Is the narrator really telling about the narrated narrative kind of thing, though, is guaranteed to put me to sleep in under 2 minutes.
Of course, it’s a testimony to Pozuelo Yvancos’s gift as a literary critic that a 400-page book about the kind of literature I don’t read held my attention from start to finish. Great book by a talented author.