Why do songwriters love the folk, but the literary writers don't?
Folk stories are, of course, popular and historic.
Folk music, folks art --- it's all rockin'.
But folk writing has been called an oxymoron, nonexistent. To the cultural people "folk" is synonymous with illiterate. But that's a silly notion and needs to be discarded. There've been folk writers, too, for forever --- their work simply has been ignored, suppressed, discounted --- because, to put to bluntly, it's so often better than educated people's writing. But it's also probably a threat to official views of everything. It would likely see the world differently.
Anyway, it's amazing to me how singersongwriters tend to be folky so often, or at least in touch with their roots in a way, even if they're institutional types. Their subjects include citylife, for sure---but they've also highlighted rural realities.
Yet for so many literary writers the hinterlands are still the "flyover states." They don't count. Or, downtrodden details are paraded, but the sticks aren't allowed to lead. Not lately. Apparently the old hero of workingclass lit, Ray Carver, had more to say but was edited down to just his picturesque details. He felt bad about that. His big city editor knew better than his writer did. Hemingway and Kerouac felt bad for similar reasons.
Pop writers used to do well in the countryside, and genre writers still do---with both westerns and crime novels (James Lee Burke!). Oh, OK, there are a few rural writers, but I think that a lot of them are looking back. They're on campus now or in the city, writing about their smalltown roots. So why is the US literary scene so eager to stay in town and around campus? I think it's likely a false notion that artists run to a city as soon as they can. There are smart, talented, open-minded folks everywhere in the hinterlands. Is their voice heard well enough?
The current literary champion of the sticks is probably Cormac McCarthy --- he's a recluse. Maybe that's the way NYC likes him to be. Many other hillbilly writers are, in contrast, boisterous, hilarious, gregarious, entertaining --- and unpublished --- think what would happen if THEY came to town? To do a reading? If you published them think of the embarrassment!
But does it have to be that way? I think that folk writers have their social nimbleness act together far better than city folk give them credit for. They'd do fine at a cocktail party. They've been there before. If they don't eat with their pinky finger up, so what --- a party can tolerate a little diversity.
I'm not saying to drop the buffed-up stuff and the city topics. I'm saying that publishing needs to add folk and hill writers to their line-ups. ...And, heck, in terms of the city, they need to add STREET writers and not focus so much on the campus and on the swank, credentialed types.
It's just a notion.
Oh, by the way, I've been doing just the kind of publishing that I propose, with my new line of novels at ULAPRESS.com --- here in the OYB Literary section.
Now I have to get a national bookstore mailing sent out...
Who knows, if given a chance, if pitched to those who might relate to it, folk writing and street writing just might catch on!