Did We Lose a Literary Generation Along With Mailer, Vonnegut and Paley This Year?

Morris Dickstein of The Los Angeles Times wonders if some kind of literary generation has passed away along with the death of Norman Mailer, Grace Paley and Kurt Vonnegut this year. He wrote that, “Critics love the idea of literary generations, but it would be a challenge to find themes or ideas to link the disparate work of Norman Mailer, Grace Paley and Kurt Vonnegut … [Yet n]o one would mistake a paragraph of theirs for the prose of another writer.”

Just as Mailer, with his mock bravado, seemed to wrestle the world into submission, and Paley stepped back and observed its foibles wryly, Vonnegut, at heart a child of the Midwest, took full measure of the damage the world could do to simple values and the people who held them. With their accumulated wisdom, these three writers’ living presence mattered, but we might miss them more if they had not left so much behind.