This is not news to most people, but I’m going to tell you anyway. As readers, we generally want to read something which is far removed from our experience, and possibly at the extreme other end of the spectrum. In good times we sink our teeth into tragedy. In bad times we want comedy. Perhaps it was the same for the Ancient Greeks when they were segmenting these dramatic genres in the first place, but due to a shocking lack of macroeconomic data or detailed accounts from this period, we are reduced to lazy guesswork on this topic.
In Ireland and the rest of recession-ridden world we could quite clearly see these patterns in operation over the past 10 years. During the boom we were reading true-life accounts of adversity (a.k.a. the Misery Memoir, Poverty Porn, etc) or crime; during the bust, we back-flipped into into fantasy. Ever since 2008, when the banks and our bank accounts and our houses began to implode, we have been going stone mad for werewolves, vampires, angels, witches, goblins, divine intervention, and those particularly implausible fairytales of the rich and famous. (Reclusive billionaire looking for love, anyone?)
This would suggest, assuming that optimism is not a ridiculous sentiment which was fully exterminated before being burned, vaporised and erased from the collective memory of humankind in recent years, we need to start writing about misery again in order to be ahead of the curve.
The Dubious Cycle of Quality
At the peak of the cycle, just about anything will do, with quality of writing either secondary or entirely unimportant, which would explain a glut of speedily written and maudlin child abuse memoirs around 2006 and the often barely legible torrent of post-Twilight paranormal romance in the past few years. However, to get to the peak of the cycle, the way generally has to be paved by some well-constructed and well-written stuff which gets people to make the switch from glitter, the glamour, the guts and the gore of fantasy in the first place.
To be ready for the peak of the next cycle, therefore, one of you should go now and write the following:
And the multi-million blockbuster of 2015 is….
MANGE IS BEAUTIFUL… an emotional, but not overly sentimental, account of an unnamed mongrel puppy, beaten, starved and insulted by a succession of vile owners before being abandoned on a busy motorway during an electrical storm. He overcomes severe physical handicaps and trust issues to lead a fairly average life which is rendered beautiful by simple virtue of not being horrific anymore (because the puppy’s life expectations have been simplified through sheer adversity so that he may find contentment in the most mundane experience). This should be written in a literary fiction style with witty, self-deprecating observations and award-winning descriptive language.
I’ll take a modest 77% cut of profits. Thanks.