Great quotation and embedded quotations from novelist Andrew Klavan, as part of his review of the founder-of-Scientology movie The Master:
There’s a reason modernism collapsed into the ruinous and stupid-making morass of post-modernism. Ultimately, modernist reality was smaller and seedier than human life as it is lived. As the novelist and critic Gabriel Josipovici points out in critiquing one modernist novel, “describing the smell of sweat and semen during the act of sex no more anchors the novel to ‘reality’ than writing about stars in the eyes of the beloved.”
Myself, I attribute the unrealistic smallness of modernism to its secular nature. Without God, as Tolstoy explained, there’s nothing left to write about but sex and ennui.
What a stunning insight from Tolstoy! That was back in the 19th century, but he predicted the major subject matter of 20th and 21st century literary art. I would just add that one can also write about–or make movies about or make music about–attempts to mask the ennui, the boredom, with sensationalistic distractions. Thus, the explosions, car chases, murders, gore, escapism, and psychological fantasies that make up much of our pop culture. (Not that there isn’t much of value and even greatness in 20th and 21st century literature–I am by no means dismissing or even criticizing it–but there sure is a lot of sex and ennui.)