I try not to think of Lit in terms of storytelling because no writer of Lit has been at the forefront of storytelling for at least a century, or much longer than that, if one wants to go into detail about it.
The Reality I was birthed into was shaped by stories the Government told about itself, and about its affects on the world, by way of the apparatus of various US GOV-controlled media (including the educational system). Nothing by HG Wells or Thomas Mann or Flannery O’Connor shaped the world I was born into like the Super Fiction of official lies about the Korean War or lies about Abraham Lincoln or lies about the economy. Compared to the intensity and reach of the Super Fictions crafted by visible and invisible story-telling functionaries at US GOV’s behest, the writers I came to know of, and admire, in my teens and twenties… Nabokov, Didion, Ellison (Harlan), Miller, Brodkey… were minor; they were followers, not innovators. What they wrote often depended on, or was derivative of, what US GOV wrote in the project of its ongoing, and pathologically self-serving, autobiography. Centuries before US GOV got in the Super Fiction game, Literature deferred just as slavishly to the Bible, Lit being little more than the trickle-down tributary of the Super Fiction (aka Big Lies) required for the Social Control of interlocking Empires.
It’s only in the aesthetic refinements that its more talented practitioners achieve that Lit recovers any pride when compared to the monstrously successful, and powerful, and monstrous, author-in-aggregate we can call US GOV. To that extent, aesthetic refinement may only be a compensation for impotency, but, as compensations go, it will do. This is true of Art and Cinema as well, of course: what New Wave masterpiece of the 1960s was more evocative than, or widely viewed as, news reels of the Vietnam War? Or the Sci Fi epic of the Apollo Project? All lies, very powerful lies, enduring lies… with little if any aesthetic refinement to them. For the aesthetics we return, in our humble chapels, to the subtle wafers of Godard, Ted Hughes, Kara Walker and Pynchon, et al.
World-famous bestselling Super Fiction Writer US GOV could never have written a line such as… “Look at Durocher on the dugout steps, manager of the Giants, hard-rock Leo, the gashouse scrapper, a face straight from the Gallic Wars, and he says into his fist, ‘Holy fuggin shit almighty,'” (DeLillo, Underworld) but, I assure you, US GOV could not care less. Neither could US GOV have written: “Because with something of the exaltation of his adopted father he sprang full and of his own accord into the stranger’s fist,” (Faulkner, A Light in August) nor give a shit. These little gems are yours to keep precisely because US GOV thinks little of them. Exquisitely-refined fictions which fail to double as Lies (more the less, BIG LIES): what’s the point?
US GOV wrote: “A LUNATIC SHOT THE PRESIDENT!” and hundreds of millions wailed. US GOV wrote, for its readers (who were, technologically, fresh out of the 19th century; some of whom were still taking milk bottles delivered on horse-drawn carts; some of whom could still hear steam trains whistle at night): “WE WENT TO THE MOON AND BACK!” and hundreds of millions cheered. US GOV wrote: “THE COMMIES IN VIETNAM PICKED A FIGHT WITH US AND NOW WE WILL TEACH THEM A LESSON!” and hundreds of millions of patriotic readers growled and saluted the flag. US GOV wrote: “WAR PROTESTERS WEAKENED OUR ABILITY TO TEACH THOSE COMMIES A LESSON!” and “NIXON RESIGNS!” and hundreds of millions of readers were slightly confused, temporarily, perhaps, until World-famous bestselling Super Fiction Writer US GOV came back, in the 1980s and 1990s and 2000s with bigger, better, cruder, more fantastical and more inescapably-distributed SUPER FICTIONS that everyone, bar nearly none, totally believed and even loved to believe, even if they thought, or pretended to think, that they hated them.
Who can beat stories of that magnitude and enduring popularity? US GOV is a Writer, THE Writer, but, so, then, what are Writers? Writers (who write fictions which humbly identify themselves as fictions and do not sway nations) need a new term that won’t shame them by invoking an odious comparison.
Try: Rhetorical Aestheticians?
World-famous bestselling Super Fiction Writer US GOV wrote an unusually huge bestseller in 2001 (“9/11!”) and Rhetorical Aesthetician Don DeLillo wrote a semi-obscure follow-up, based largely on US GOV’s bestseller, called “Falling Man,” in 2007. Rhetorical Aesthetician Thomas Pynchon followed that, in 2013, with a derivative work of his own called “Bleeding Edge” (Pynchon’s was less derivative than DeLillo’s)… and neither swayed nations while both merely served as minor collateral PR for US GOV’s “9/11!” bestseller.
The problem for Rhetorical Aestheticians Pynchon, DeLillo, Faulkner, Morrison, Joyce, Munro, Ballard, Roth, Isherwood, Didion is that their fictions aren’t big enough and nobody believes them and they don’t have armies to give any of it true weight or drama.