A Neo-con’s First Novel

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Sam Munson, grandson of Norman Podhoretz, is taking his debut novel to market. Muson serves as the online editor for the neo-conservative journal Commentary. His novel is written from the perspective of a high school senior applying to The University of Chicago. His agent Stephen Barbara compares the book to Sam Lipsyte’s ingenious Home Land, which takes the form of a charming misanthrope’s letters to the alumni newsletter of his old high school, saying “The only difference,” Barbara says, “is that Sam’s book is good!” (kidding about the quote)

This actually brings up a larger question. It’s fairly well established that all good literary fiction writers are liberals (here, here, and here). The easiest way to define literary fiction is as fiction that is first and foremost charcter driven. It seems character driven fiction requires empathy, and if you have empathy you’re a liberal. So the question becomes, is Muson’s novel literary or genre? Lipsyte’s certainly is literary. And if Muson’s novel is literary, is it then a bad novel? Or, with the dawning of the Obama presidency do the old rules no longer apply?


Stephen Elliott is the author of seven books, including the memoir The Adderall Diaries and the novel Happy Baby. He is the founding editor of The Rumpus. His feature film debut, About Cherry, was distributed by IFC. His second movie, based on his novel Happy Baby, is forthcoming. More from this author →