In the aftermath of the attacks on the Word Trade Center, many of the most famous authors of our time have weighed in on the attacks, depicting the ways large and small in which they altered people’s lives. Some hypothesized possible motivations behind the terrorists’ actions: John Updike in Terrorist (2006) and Martin Amis in the short story “The Last Days of Muhammad Atta” (2006). Others used the events as narrative bookends: Don DeLillo’s Falling Man (2007) and Claire Messud’s The Emperor’s Children (2006) are two examples. Some novels commented more indirectly: At the start of Ian McEwan’s Saturday (2005), the protagonist sees a plane flying low and fears a terrorist attack, while, in Jonathan Safran Foer’s Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close (2005), the main character’s quest to unravel a personal mystery is motivated by his father’s death in the World Trade Center.Oh, good lord, this is so stupid I hate to have to point it out. Katrina was a hurricane. We don't have to try to figure out its motivations and come to terms with its evil. Yes, there were human failings in the aftermath of the storm, but novelists have been chewing through the routine failings of humankind since the novel was invented. They don't even need a real event that had real people screwing up to get them started. They'll make up stories and characters to show the way people do bad things. You know, fiction.
Meanwhile, the literary response to Hurricane Katrina, the other great American disaster of the last decade, has been almost nonexistent. In the five years since Katrina, almost no major literary figure has similarly illustrated the effects of the hurricane.
But the lack of a strong literary response to the hurricane appears to have consequences.... For centuries, novels have done the important job of making devastation more concrete for people by examining individual experience, real or fictional, with that devastation.Ugh. Art subordinated to politics and social change. Great novelists should write about Katrina to help people. No. That's not how it works.
Novelists have done a commendable job exposing us to the dust and the rubble of September 11. It’s time for more of them to churn the mud, water, blood, and decay wrought by Katrina.As if serious novelists take their marching orders from the political hacks of this world.
AFTERTHOUGHT: "It’s time for more of them to churn the mud, water, blood, and decay wrought by Katrina." Put mud, water, blood, and decay in in the blender and press "churn." Yummy Katrina art smoothie.