I’d promised myself I’d lay off the whole Americans-are-too-insular thing—plenty has already been said, and it’s already pretty clear to just about everybody that Horace Engdahl is being silly, intentionally or unintentionally. But I’m calling attention to Lionel Shriver‘s points in Forbes, partly because she wrote one of my favorite novels of 2007, The Post-Birthday World, partly because she has a unique perspective as an American author who doesn’t spend much time in America, and partly because she does a better job of calling bullshit on all this than anything else I’ve read:
Fifty-some mostly American authors attended [“Festival America” in Vincennes, France] (not, alas, the enviable junket it appears, but two days of wearying, unpaid back-to-back appearances in “debates” with goofball and, I’m afraid, typically French topics like, “American Women: Citizens of the World?”–don’t get me started … ). The complexion of these participants, literally and figuratively, exemplified the extravagantly permeable nature of the American literary scene that has resulted from high levels of immigration from all over the world.
The writers Dinaw Mengestu (from Ethiopia), Nami Mun (from Korea) Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (from Nigeria) and Mohsin Hamid (from Pakistan), to cite but a few, have all found safe haven in the U.S., and last weekend joined a variety of more mainstream writers like Richard Russo, Amy Bloom and Tobias Wolfe. If the American literary world is sealed off from influences elsewhere, it must be protecting itself not with Saran Wrap, but with some ludicrously inappropriate material like fish-netting with big holes in it.
Now, if somebody at Forbes could just correct the spelling of Tobias Wolff‘s name…