I'm studying contemporary fiction this semester, though the notion of contemporary seems limited to texts that have, over the last ten years, slotted into a provisional canon; nothing that's come out in the last couple of years feature, and the texts that we do study are all rather 'safe' and acknowledged to be worth a gander. These issues of canonicity, value judgements, prize culture and so on, are, however, part of what we're looking at in the course, which builds in a certain amount of questioning and adaptability into the way the discussions unfold, and we're encouraged to read widely, both in fiction and in publishing publications like The Bookseller - though the texts themselves, as I say, are in many cases, obvious enough choices, like The Sea, or The Inheritance of Loss.
I read Irish novelist Julian Gough's first book, Juno & Juliet, over the past couple of days; it's one that I've been meaning to read for a very long time, and it was well worth the wait, and I heartily recommend it. It's very witty. I'll be getting hold of his second novel pretty soon. Anyway, in the context of the contemporary fiction thing, Julian posted an entry on his blog about the state of contemporary Irish fiction. The Guardian then picked it up, albeit with a pretty sensationalist headline, and they've posted responses from John Banville and Sebastian Barry, who mainly agree with Gough. Where are the bright young Irish things? I have to admit that I'm not that clued in about the debate. The Roddy Doyles and the Banvilles grab my eye, but I know much more about new releases from young authors in the UK and the USA than I do their Irish equivalents. It's a small country with a smaller output, perhaps; the writers get swallowed up in the London publishing mill, and I think the lit-blogging scene is focused more on bigger countries with a larger writing population. Plus young Irish writers aren't necessarily based in Ireland - I'm not. But still, reading Julian's post, I've found a few names to follow up, and I hope more will follow. They've got to be out there.