Transatlantic literary critical lenses are no more immune from distortion than are any others. Recently, these lenses have been more often compounded with generosity than with insularity, a fairly typical example of which is evident in David Lodge’s review in the Guardian of Granta’s issue on American writing; Lodge concludes:

So, is contemporary American fiction more challenging, adventurous than ours? Well, yes. It seems less constrained by respect for realism, and less fearful of seeming pretentious. The American writer is apt to dare more, not only in form, but also in subject matter.

The terms of this praise are no more convincing, for me, than the comparative conclusion. I am not sure that daring is a measure of good writing, but, more significantly, I suspect that many of the novels Lodge means to praise, novels that work through fantasy or through a formal indictment or reversal of what they stipulate as the conventional novel form, in fact dare considerably less than do many British novels.


An Irrelevant Parochialism
Where Do We Go from Here?