The LRB has a rather curmudgeonly review of a book about creative writing graduate programs --MFA like the Iowa Workshop. Elif Batuman does not think much of most contemporary fiction or the writing programs from which most of the writers come. Two separate sets of complaints. The complaints intertwine a bit, and I think all have been articulated before at some length. E.g., the polished boredom of much writing, the identification of ethnicity with authenticity, and so on. Quite a long piece, and all of it annoyed. It turns out I've read all the authors and pieces he refers to, and the sad bit is that I largely agreed with his assessment. Novel gets great reviews and turns out to be pedestrian plotting using limited characters cast in a somewhat unusual circumstance. The essay did not bother me because of what it said, but it did bother me that I agreed with so much of it and so find myself in a kind of cultural conservatism. I really did find Mukherjee's novel a poor read -- there really isn't anything much under the Bengali decorations. Not much is learned about Bengali culture and the characters are not interesting. Over and over.
It is difficult to sort out the habits from critical appraisal. I.e., do I reject the works because they are new? Are they worse than the books I still love? Is it all too colored by prejudice and sloth? I am not able to tell (at least not today). And so I consider that I have turned into a cultural reactionary. Same in visual arts and architecture.
What do you re-read?