[16 March 2010]
So you want to write a Literary Manifesto that will make us readers stand up and demand a New Kind of Literature. Here are a few simple tips to help you earn great renown for writing a provocative, ire-raising, Literary gauntlet-throwdown that will be taken seriously by the Literati.
1) Title. Having a snappy title like “How Hunting the Billion-Footed Beast Is Destroying Literature” isn’t enough. Put the word “manifesto” somewhere in the title. Doing so will alert our attention that what you have to say is in fact The Most Important Thing Written About Literature in a Very Long Time.
2) Identity. Be White and Male. With apologies to women, blacks, Hispanics, Asians, LGBT, and other pomosexuals, it has to be said that but for a handful of examples the Literary Manifesto as practiced in the U.S.A. is a form developed, written, and promoted by and for white males. The most recent and much-ballyhooed examples from the past few decades attest to this: David Shields (Reality Hunger: A Manifesto, February 2010), Ben Marcus (“Why Experimental Fiction Threatens to Destroy Publishing, Jonathan Franzen, and Life as We Know It: A Correction”, Harper’s, 2005), and Jonathan Franzen (“Perchance to Dream: In the Age of Images, a Reason to Write Novels”, Harper’s, April 1996). Rightly or wrongly, white males still have the hot air of authority about them when it comes having their manifestos taken seriously.
3) Definition. Your definition should tell us in unambiguous terms the exact kind of Literature That Ought to Be Written and Read, or even What Literature Ought Not To Be. With the latter you get the bonus chance to criticize writers you don’t like for the purpose of saving Literature from mediocrity.
4) Dire Consequences. You must indicate in the most strenuous terms possible that the End of Culture will occur if your manifesto is not heeded. That without your revitalized new form of Literature, we will suffer Dire Consequences. Though in reality we might only suffer boredom or irritation from slogging through a bad piece of writing, do everything possible to imply that plagues, famine, and war are possible should your words remain unheeded.
5) Be the Change You Seek. If you are demanding a return to Social-Realism, then be a practitioner of Social-Realism. This goes for Nouveau Social-Realism, Post-Modernism, Genre-Bending, Experimental, Internet-Infused, or whatever it is you’re going to call your New Breed of Literature that is the only thing capable of capturing the new realities of our current human existence. Everything you write should fit your new mold. No hypocrisy for you.
6) Friends. Get friends (aka other published writers) to tout your manifesto in blurbs, ad copy, banner ads, blogs, and tweets, by saying things like, “it’s a thought-provoking work on the future of literature”, “should be read by all serious readers”, “a way forward for Literature has been found in these uncertain times”, or “a call to arms to save our dying culture!”
Following these six simple tips ought to make us readers stand up and demand a Shiny New Kind of Literature; the kind that you, dear writer, just so happen to be writing. Go forth and profit!