November 3, 2010

Laura Miller vs. NaNoWriMo


On Monday, I wrote about my ambivalence concerning National Novel Writing Month. While there are many things I appreciate about NaNoWriMo, I am dismayed at the “dearth” of good books and exciting writers to have emerged from the event. My comments were, I felt, a blend of support and critique. A mixed-review, as they say.

Now Laura Miller has written a completely unabashed attack on NaNoWriMo at Salon:

Frankly, there are already more than enough novels out there — more than those of us who still read novels could ever get around to poking our noses into, even when it’s our job to do so. This is not to say that I don’t hope that more novels will be written, particularly by the two dozen-odd authors whose new books I invariably snatch up with a suppressed squeal of excitement. (Actually, there are more of those novels than I’ll ever be able to read, as well.) Furthermore, I know that there are still undiscovered or unpublished authors out there whose work I will love if I ever manage to find it. But I’m confident those novels would still get written even if NaNoWriMo should vanish from the earth.

Miller expands her critique to include not just NaNoWriMo, but the larger “narcissistic” culture in which everyone believes they deserve to be a writer, but few bother to actually read. Her essay closes with a call for us to celebrate the “quieter triumph” of reading:

Rather than squandering our applause on writers — who, let’s face, will keep on pounding the keyboards whether we support them or not — why not direct more attention, more pep talks, more nonprofit booster groups, more benefit galas and more huzzahs to readers? Why not celebrate them more heartily? They are the bedrock on which any literary culture must be built. After all, there’s not much glory in finally writing that novel if it turns out there’s no one left to read it.

Miller’s essay has caused a riot of debate on the Salon comment board, with the majority rallying against her. What do you think?