I have a rather involved obsession with The Life of Norman. It’s a little internet gem that coasts at the speed of around 1997. No pictures. Simple text. Pure community brilliance. This sub-reddit consists of stories that feature Norman, a decidedly mediocre antihero engaging in unimportant failures. It’s obviously Ironic in tone, but the kind that garners sympathy, not ridicule, and it’s just trivial enough to avoid the Kafka-esque vortex. Here’s an example:
Norman was grocery shopping, where he decided to buy two cans of Coke, not diet or caffeine-free, just plain Coke. He knew the sugar was bad for him but he was feeling adventurous and wanted to treat himself. “One for Saturday night, and one for Sunday night.” he thought.
A recent article in the New Yorker entitled “Working Titles” by Leslie Chang sets out to describe the phenomenon of “workplace novel” in China. These novels are intended to be a guide to the newly materializing rat-race that is State Capitalist China. Complete with sub-genres like “the Financial Novel” and the “Commercial Warfare Novel” these are stories that give concrete instruction to what is often an abstract and complicated affair, social climbing. I wondered what an American iteration of the genre would look like, if we would allow ourselves a fiction that doubles as how-to. Surely, many people watched the film Wall Street as a guide instead of a morality tale. So too The Savage Detectives teaches us how a poet behaves. Fiction does have the ability to teach. No one has ever doubted that. But could we accept bald didacticism?
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