Reflections on beginning to read Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow
I didn’t grow up in the time period of Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, but I am a programmer and a gamer so that connection was strong for me. I enjoyed one particular scene that played out through FORTRAN code.
But your fears are well founded. The thing that I disliked most was that both main characters are deeply flawed people - selfish, self-destructive, unwilling to take advice or listen to reason - and this was presented with no comment. I’m sure people would argue that this is “realistic,” but I don’t read books for realism; I read for escapism, and I want my books to challenge me to be a better person. Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow doesn’t show me anything I could aspire to, and for that reason I found it depressing.
I would say this is a failing of Millennials (my generation) and younger. We would rather stew in our problems than solve them. This makes me furious.
I haven't read the book you mention and I can't speak to your theory about connectedness because I haven't read many (any, really) works of contemporary fiction lately. But I wouldn't be surprised if there is an element of that. The quote about giving advice being immoral is especially deranged. No one is forcing anyone to _take_ the advice.... Are we really at the point where even the goodwill of others is an oppression?
I also read samples from time to time without any luck. The few attempts I've made at whole novels were failures for the reason you stated: they don't seem real. Or I would say they give me a "phony" vibe. By that, I mean they feel manufactured, uncanny, precise to the point of being creepy. In the way perhaps a robot or AI would attempt to simulate a human being, contemporary novels attempt to simulate human life, but there's nothing organic or surprising about them. Everything feels neat, staged. Real life and real people are anything but.
I blame MFA programs for this effect, because the writers who emerge from these programs all seem to wield the same handful of techniques in their writing. I'm sure there are fancy names and theories underlying all these methods, and maybe they allow aspiring writers to become published authors. But the result of all this processing is cold, calculated, lifeless stories. Once you detect the pattern, you can't unsee it. Give me raw, unpasteurized fiction any day.
Yeah, I'm reading Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and... I had similar issues about Sam not feeling like a coherent character... But I kept reading and... well, yeah, he's not a coherent character, but it doesn't totally matter, it's kinda just a good book.
I've seen the book you write about, but haven't read it. A part of me wonders if contemporary/newish authors are unconnected in their personal lives, and thus can't relate to any other frame of reference.
Have you tried any Zadie Smith? Now there is a novelist whose characters are connected, to place and to relation (so much so that her protagonists sometimes show up as minor characters in other novels) and who recognizes that actions have consequences. She was just 21 when her first novel was published and it has all the liveliness (and more) of the earliest writers of the English tradition--Defoe, Richardson--when “the novel” was still an odd creature caught halfway between the drama and the literary-journalistic account. She read everything in the tradition precociously and vibrantly--and it shows to advantage. I wonder what you’d make of White Teeth or Swing Time or NW.