Thursday, February 12, 2009

TBAR: Publishing Business Novels

The February 8, 2008 Dallas Morning News, ran an excellent essay in the Points section, "We Need an Intellectual Stimulus Package," by Walton Muyumba. I am so glad Dr. Muyumba is in town and contributing to the intellectual milieu. Dr. Muyumba's essay referred to this article: "Going Boom, The economic collapse points up how little our literary world has to say about social inequality," By Walter Benn Michaels in the February/March 2009 print edition of Book Forum.

Dr. Muyumba's essay shows what a good critic can do: take something not particularly clear, like Michaels' article, and give it meaning. Dr. Muyumba pointed out a disconnection, a missing relationship, between American literature and the American market economy. Dr. Muyumba wrote, "we need our best artists, our most agile arts critics and our arts aficionados to initiate the reinvigoration of American imagination." He would like to see discussions on "how to invent alternative systems of commerce."

Yes! Bringing business into novels, especially with some of the heroes being businessmen, would be a new and positive development. There are certainly negative portrayals of businessmen in Michael Crichton novels like "Prey", "Timeline," and "Airframe," to name only a few.

Positive novels about business still show an unpleasant side to business. The Goal by Eliyahu M. Goldratt starts with a creepy corporate vice-president insulting a plant manager. Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand is the ultimate business novel, having business executives like Hank Rearden and Dagny Taggart as heroes and business executives like James Taggart and Orren Boyle as villains. Any realistic novel about business has to have businessmen villains, but we have a shortage of novels that include businessmen heroes. In a previous post, "Atlas Shrugged" and Texas, I had suggested that Texas writers and publishers might do well by embracing and promoting a business-hero genre.

In The Texas Publishing Project I suggested publishing will be an important industry for Texas.

Dr. Muyumba is absolutely correct in emphasizing the importance of social criticism and a need for writers to include economics and market forces in their novels.

I look forward to further contributions from Dr. Muyumba and also from Dr. Troy Camplin at the Emerson Institute for Freedom and Culture. The intellectual life in DFW is beginning to percolate!

Robert Canright

December 14, 2008: The Texas Publishing Project
January 9, 2009: "Atlas Shrugged" and Texas

1 comment:

Troy Camplin said...

I liked that article too. It's the kind of thing that gets the mind to working. We need publishers who will publish the kind of work you talk about, and playhouses that perform those kinds of plays. I'm busy creating works like "The Cain Apocalypse," the story of Cain and Abel, on the theme of resentment, and "The Existentialists," about how intellectuals are attracted to dictatorship. I am planning plays on the Faust story and on robbing Peter to pay Paul. The key is finding places that will perform such works.