The myth of progress in the works of John Nichols
Since I've chosen a very contemporary and relatively unexamined author as the subject of my thesis, I'd like to make a few comments here about why I think Nichols' work deserves attention. One of my minor reasons is what I've just stated--Nichols is a very contemporary, relatively unexamined author. Much of the criticism in current literary journals suggests that with a few exceptions--notably Updike, Cheever, and Bellow--American literature declined significantly after the late 1940s; these journals further suggest that many writers who are currently producing fiction are merely popular writers. I don't necessarily disagree with the standard conception of "modern" American literature's Holy Trinity (Faulkner, Fitzgerald, and Hemingway), nor do I wish to wrestle with the question of what characteristics condemn a writer's works to the realm of mere popularity; I suggest only that one writer who is writing about important issues of concern at this very moment should get some attention before his case is assigned to the overcrowded, slow-moving court of posterity. It's not very comforting to think that thirty or forty years from now someone living in Taos, by then a suburb of Albuquerque with a population of one or two million, may come across Nichols' work and say, "You know, he's got something there."