In commenting on the previous section I noted that I’m personally not interested in belonging to any literary movement or critical school. I have my own literary perspective, certainly, but if I belong to any literary tradition it’s the one that puts human experience and truth ahead of everything else.
My complaint about literary movements and schools is that they are inevitably temporary and almost always fad-driven. This section of Hills’ book unintentionally proves the merit of that perspective in that it replaces two sections that appeared in the original 1977 printing. Those sections were, in order, Fiction and the New Journalism and Real Fiction, as against the New Fiction.
In the late 1970’s New Journalism and New Fiction were hot literary topics. Like all hot literary topics they faded soon afterward, rendering Hills’ own commentary effectively meaningless except for historical value. In reading those sections again I think the current narrative non-fiction movement owes a debt to New Journalism, while flash fiction and other current experimental forms owe a debt to New Fiction. But it also seems, at least to me, that these movements are part of a never-ending effort to make fiction be somehow more than fiction. Whether the hot literary topic is meta-fiction or anti-fiction or hyper-fiction, the aim is always to make plain-old fiction do more, when plain-old fiction does what it does better than any trendy variant ever will.
As Hills wrote in the section on New Journalism:
Imagination is anyway implicit in the very definition of “fiction,” as distinguished from its opposite in the absurd term “nonfiction.” And fiction and nonfiction are, again anyway, both perfectly good things in themselves — there doesn’t seem to be any point in mixing them. The resultant hybrids aren’t a new strain of literary art at all. They’re just intermittently useful, futureless one-timers, as unaesthetic and recalcitrant as mules.
In removing those two sections and replacing them Hills demonstrates the merit of his own words and the futility of embracing fad as craft. If you really feel the need to write from the crest of every literary wave I support you in that pursuit. Not only is it not for me, however, I don’t think it’s a particularly good way to become one with the ocean.