5. Literature will be moribund when people no longer use words to talk or to describe things or ideas in journals such as this. That day is no doubt coming, but until humans can only think in pictures, as only infants and animals can, words and the stories they tell will compel us. True, most of what is pushed upon us by publishers and advertisers is dead on arrival, but books a thousand years old are still breathing strong.
6. Where do I begin? Is language supposed to be an "art medium," exactly, whatever that means or is? Much of what Momus says here doesn't apply to the books I love, or the ones he does, and most novels or stories are probably not going to "startle" us the way some music or graphics do. But some books do--in fact, quite a lot do, and quite a lot of music and visual art doesn't. It is true that poetry can often be more visceral and immediate than prose, and many writers themselves would consider it "superior," but poetry lurks in some unexpected places, and I find a lot of it in everything from the goddamn Bible (hello, Nick Cave!) to Kafka (who took great pains not to sound too "poetic").
7. It's hard to tell exactly what Momus means here, since he doesn't give any examples--but this might lead into a long discussion about what depression is and how "tremendously depressing" writing somehow redeems itself by being tremendously good (on occasion). I agree that if the work is merely about exploring "the limits of language," it's probably not very interesting or good, otherwise. The same could be said of much avant-garde music and art which is interesting or good only in theory; as much as I love experimental art, I have to admit the avant-garde and experimental often dates the fastest. No amount of brilliant theory can make anything artistically better. Be that as it may, it is the duty of writers to explore as much as musicians or visual artists do--and a thousand hacks is worth one James Joyce.
You know what I secretly (and now not so secretly) think it's really all about? Time. Reading takes time in a way nothing else does, when we can multitask to music, breeze through galleries, scan headlines and columns for the juicy bits, flip through channels, fast-forward through movies. I wish I could sell time at a profit, the time people need for novels and story collections; it's our greatest indulgence and most valuable resource, but there's no way around it--reading equals thought and thought equals time. Time to read should be a right we demand when we demand food, shelter, and clothing. Maybe if the world got off their cellphones--and computers!--there'd be time enough to spare. Magically, good books make time.
Momus has obviously read a lot (one has only to give his lyrics the slightest glance), and so have his fans and extremely knowledgeable followers of this journal, so it's not as if I have to chastise him for not reading enough or daring to criticize what passes for "literature," in this age or any other. But writers can't afford to lose one more intelligent reader due to generalizations or pronouncements from people who actually do know a lot better. There may be more books published today than ever, but fewer and fewer people bother with fiction, and the less said about poetry the better. But to judge art by popularity isn't something Momus does and doesn't with his own work, so I'm entreating him and everyone else not to give up just because so much literature is bad--it is, very very bad--but because there are still stories and novels out there that could change your life. If I had given up on music for any reason like the reasons given above, or a thousand other reasons which I could readily give you, I might never have discovered the music of Momus. Now, shouldn't he be glad, that as jaded as I might be, I didn't stop searching?