Literary journalist and author.
Graduate school is hard for couples to endure. Temptation abounds. You live in penury among ambitious young (for the most part) adults, speaking a peculiar argot, attending what feel like mandatory social events and excursions steeped in alcohol, with superstars dropping in and strutting among you. Plus, there are all those fraught moments that only a fellow student—another insider—can help you soothe. Meanwhile your significant other is likely supporting you, often at a less-than-ideal job in a less-than-ideal place. Resentment builds. Sloughing a partner is easy and commonplace.
The shelves of America’s bookstores do not accurately represent the inner life of their customers. Where are the Tea Partiers dreaming of libertarian utopias? Whence the poets who howl for the rights of the unborn? The Mormon missionary comedies of manners? American literature seems to want for authors of a Republican slant.
JAMES ELLROY is the author of 13 novels, each grander in scale than the last. Perhaps best known for “L.A. Confidential” and “The Black Dahlia”, both of which were adapted to film, Mr Ellroy writes books that are often part of a short series and almost always door-stoppers. But his latest work, “Shakedown”, is a dramatic departure: it is a slim, one-volume, digital-only novella.
After four debates and with a tsunami of political advertising inundating the United States, it is clear that neither presidential candidate is willing to act decisively on what should be the most pressing issue of our day: student loan debt. Democrats offer crumbs. Republicans even can’t be bothered to pander to young voters. Yet no other issue so neatly encapsulates the miseries of contemporary American existence. An entire generation of smart, educated people are being crippled with debt. Without some sort of relief, upward mobility will vanish, the gap between rich and poor will yawn wider, our economy will be left in ruins, and what’s left of our once vaunted ability to innovate will die. The parasite is killing the host.
America should be more open than ever. Women and minorities are no longer excluded from high-earning professions and, if you are willing to take on the debt, a university education is more accessible than ever before. But if anything America is less egalitarian than it once was. The income gap between rich and poor has been growing since the 1970s. More worrying than that, a permanent class system seems to be calcifying into place: people born rich are getting richer, while the poor stay poor. America’s elite has found a way to protect and perpetuate itself within what should be an inclusive system.
SHORT literary fiction and critical essays are the publishing world’s equivalent of weapons-grade plutonium. Dense, highly refined, and for all but a professional few, something best avoided. The world’s demand for the stuff is met by a handful of respectable quarterlies, such as the Paris Review and Granta, and countless “little magazines” that publish experimental fiction and serve more as a proving ground for authors than something people actually read.