Cover Image: Contemporary Novelists and the Aesthetics of Twenty-First Century American Life

Contemporary Novelists and the Aesthetics of Twenty-First Century American Life

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Member Reviews

Kingston-Reese's investigation into 21st century aesthetics starts with Beyoncé and the concept of curation - this scholar is really surfing waves that haven't broken yet. Her main research subjects and authorities are seven well-known novelist-critics: Teju Cole, Ben Lerner, Zadie Smith, Sheila Heti, Siri Hustvedt, Chris Kraus and Rachel Kushner. While the book offers many interesting thoughts and interpretations, the whole thing does not quite come together, mainly because the research thesis is questionable: "By considering a range of fraught affective states today, this book theorizes against as the unifying structure of contemporary experience." Say what? "...against refers to the proximal sense of "to be against" - next to, to run up against - as well as opposition - between the literary and the real, intense and weak feelings, excitement and boredom." Well, it's pretty hard to argue that the ideas summed up here are new, as they have been core themes of literary production at least since the beginning of European modernity.

Another issue I had was the meandering structure of the book which did not enhance the impression of reading a stringent analysis. Still, an interesting effort and an early attempt to try and grasp what determines the aesthetics of our current literary landscape.
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Highly informative and thoroughly researched; Kingston-Reese's book examines the cultural and aesthetical shift in the turn of the millenium through individual literary examples.
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