Where Is That Novel?

If you want to read about regular people, about real life, about struggle and hardship, about poverty and difficulty, you have to read fictionalized accounts in non-fiction books like Alec MacGillis’s Fulfillment or Jessica Bruder’s Nomadland. The books sell copies and movie rights. They even win Oscars. So why can’t anybody write a novel about the infinitely interesting people who appear in these books? Why are novels filled with mental masturbation of spoiled rich people? Even in the ghost sex novel I read the other day, the 22-year-old main character is living off an inheritance. An inheritance! Have you ever met any people who don’t have to work because they have an inheritance? Me neither.

Where is a novel about a 22-year-old who works at a grocery store and goes to a laundromat? He’s a million times more interesting than some bored rich fuck with an inheritance. Where is a novel about a 26-year-old with six kids by two different fathers? She appears in MacGillis’s book about Amazon. Screw Amazon! This is a life worth immortalizing in a novel.

I subscribe to several lists of fresh releases of fiction. It’s between spoiled rich people and World War I with scary regularity. Where are the writers who can write about anything else? In the non-fiction section, apparently.

32 thoughts on “Where Is That Novel?

  1. Reply to Where Is That Novel?

    I know two people who live off inheritances. Neither is wealthy, but neither has to work if hey are careful with money. One of them once wanted, about 25 years ago, to take a trip to Europe. He found a job and worked for almost a year. Then he took the trip to Europe, and has not worked since, so far as I know. He spends his days writing poetry. He is a few years older than I am.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. “I know two people who live off inheritances”

      I’ve never known anyone like that but years ago a close friend did. She said this person would have liked to get a job but would have felt too guilty taking a job from someone else who needed the money more (this was during a recession) and so they did volunteering instead, mostly environmental stuff. I was skeptical but kept those thoughts to myself.

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  2. This is 80% of why I don’t even look at the fiction section in the bookstore anymore– if I want to read fantasy, there’s a whole other section for that. The rest I suspect is just age.

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  3. I’d love to help fill the gap, but I don’t think writing fiction is where my skills lie. But it’s depressingly rare to find a book with characters like me or most people in my social circle.

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  4. When I die, I could make some of my relatives rich, but don’t particularly want to. I’m thinking of leaving all my money to my cat.

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      1. “more WWI for some reason”

        Maybe Downton Abbey started that? I don’t remember much about it in popular culture until they devoted a season to it… (I might be wrong, of course).

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      1. It’s that the publishers only select works to be published that have proximity to their narrow demographic

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  5. Contemporary literary fiction is unbelievably formulaic and boring.

    I know you don’t like genre fiction, but I really enjoy modern horror and sci-fi, where you will often find work written by people who actually work real jobs for a living. There are many more indie publishers and much more variety in topics and styles in these genres, and the work often addresses serious topics through metaphor. Some extremely strong writers work in genre fiction these days.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. “often addresses serious topics through metaphor”

      Hasn’t that always been the case? Humans have always put serious topics through supernatural or other worldly filters, it’s the idea of literalism that’s new (and unstable since it so often goes back to the human tendency to work through issues through supernatural stories)

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    2. // I really enjoy modern horror

      May you mention a few authors you liked, please?

      Almost the only horror I read was ‘Let the Right One In’ by Swedish writer John Ajvide Lindqvist. It was extremely good as was the Swedish (not American!) movie I watched.

      A review of this novel which is about (fears of) modern Swedish society:

      “”Let the Right One In” is a horror novel- people get their heads ripped off, pour acid on their faces, and get killed by vampires- but it is a lot more than that.
      It follows a few groups of people living in a town of Blackberg, a suburb of Stockholm: the main story' is about Oskar, a young boy who is constantly bullied at school, and who finds a companion in Eli, a young-looking vampire who lives next door with the pedophile Hakan. It is also about Tommy, a slightly older boy who lives in the same complex as Oskar, and who is dealing with his mother's relationship to Steffan, a police officer working on theRitual Murderer’ case, and the story of Lacke, Larry, Morgan, and Jocke, a group of impoverished drunks who meet together at a Chinese restaurant to try to drink away their losses. All of these stories (as well as the stories of a few others) are interwoven, the actions of the people in one group will affect the others in both positive and negative ways as the book goes on.
      In many ways the horror element, while unable to be missed and a vital element, is just the frame story for what is really going on. “Let the Right One In” is really a novel about friendship, companionship, love, society, youth culture, gender, and desperation. It chronicles what happens when these people and groups are pushed by circumstance into doing things they’ve never done before, and how the desire to connected with others is apart of everyone.”

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      1. ” ‘Let the Right One …extremely good as was the Swedish …movie ”

        I loved it too! One of the great things was by accident – they hired a director who knew nothing of vampire conventions and who approached the idea fresh.

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      2. el, there are many flavors of horror, so it depends a bit what you gravitate toward. I like body horror, for instance, but not everyone does. Modern horror is really thriving in the novella and short novel form. Some writers are really like are Hailey Piper (she has a brand new novel Queen of Teeth and is super prolific; does a lot of body horror) Gwendolyn Kiste (Bram Stoker awardee), Eric La Rocca (new novel Things Have Gotten Worse Since We Last Spoke), Joanna Koch (The Wingspan of Severed Arms is very trippy, I read that as a beta reader).
        Here’s a recent post of mine where I recommend a few books I plan to read, some of them horror:

        Reading Recommendations


        Btw, I recommend following Kendall Reviews, This is Horror, and The Book Dad, they all make great reviews and recommendations of new horror books. Have fun!

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        1. // I like body horror, for instance

          First of all, thanks for the detailed reply. Will explore your recs and blogs.

          Do not know what body horror means.

          What I loved the most about “”Let the Right One In” was the deep psychological aspect of it (in the relationship between a boy and a child-vampire and pretty much in every other relationship portrayed even for minor characters) and the way the author used supernatural element to emphasize certain traits and trends in contemporary Swedish society.

          Btw, I do not like reading about mentally ill or outright insane characters, just usual modern people dealing with the supernatural in believable ways.

          Is there a name for this horror genre with social commentary and psychological realism? Novels exploring not ‘who did it’ but ‘who are we?’

          Btw, Lindqvist had also written this novel which I haven’t read, yet it looks good:

          “Handling the Undead (Swedish: Hanteringen av odöda) is a 2005 horror novel by Swedish writer John Ajvide Lindqvist, translated into English in 2009. The book revolves around the unexplained reanimation of thousands of recently deceased people in Stockholm.

          The plot focuses on the reactions of society and the many conflicts that arise between Swedish authorities and the relatives of the undead; the horror is less in the uncanny animation of corpses but in the realities of grief, loss and our own inevitable mortality. An important theme is the bond between parents and children.”

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          1. el, I think you should maybe try some Stephen King (he doesn’t just write horror, and he’s really very good and has something for everyone). Here’s a list you can start from: https://www.businessinsider.com/best-stephen-king-books

            Neil Geiman is another excellent writer who doesn’t exclusively write horror, but various genres.

            Here are a couple of lists of authors to explore (Stephen King is at the top of each list, bar none):
            https://bookriot.com/best-horror-authors/
            https://booklaunch.io/bestsellers/best-horror-authors

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          2. “Do not know what body horror means.”

            It stems from human ambivalence/disgust of human bodily functions or the body itself and so characters (often the protagonist) undergo disruptions or… distortions of the body.

            The picture of Dorian Grey

            Zombie movies/series are partly body horror with the various zombies ambling around in different stages of decomposition.

            The anti-war novel “Johnny got his gun” is body horror (though usually not described as such).

            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Johnny_Got_His_Gun

            I haven’t read much Stephen King but Carrie (which made him famous) has a body horror elements (the title character’s telekinesis is activated by trauma around menstruation).

            Let the right one in (the movie, I haven’t read the book) has lots of body horror elements (mostly not directed especially around Hakan and his clumsy efforts to secure prey for Eli and his self-mutilation.

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  6. For non rich protagonist in a novel, try “Winter’s Bone.” It’s not new so maybe you’ve already read it. Was made into a movie also.

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