Monday, June 6, 2011

Is Plot Passé?



Famous Modernist author, T.S. Eliot, called plot out of date, out of style, a remnant of a bygone era, or as he liked to put it…passé. Of course, the guy was practically a Fascist and a snob to boot, but that didn’t stop him from writing tours de force like The Lovesong of J. Alfred Pruefrock and The Wasteland. Did this avant-garde guy know what he was talking about (yes, I’m using French words today), or was he just puffing smoke?

He and many of his contemporaries emphasized form over the general story-line, as anyone who has read through James Joyce or Virginia Woolf knows. But today writers seem to have rebelled against this concept, including everyone from Thomas Pynchon to J.K. Rowling. However, I’m not debating whether plot sells, it always has in bookstores, but whether it still provides the primary means of conveying a novel in terms of art for art’s sake.

As time goes by I find myself believing less and less in the difference between high art and low art, but that’s another topic for perhaps another post.  In terms of plot, what do you think? Is it truly as passé as Eliot says or have we got some romantics out there still willing to defend the role of plot in the books we read today?