It seems that literary fiction is dead — it even has a gravestone. Capitalism? Also dead. Tradition and conservatism apparently achieved a murder-suicide pact, which I guess makes it inevitable that the Judeo-Christian tradition is equally defunct; the fact is pushing up daisies; a consensus of some kind has shuffled off its mortal coil; the metabolic processes of socialism have long been history; liberalism joined the Choir Invisible some time back; even Trumpism has expired and gone to meet its maker. At this point, wouldn’t it be simpler for someone to write to tell us what isn’t dead? Maybe something out there is merely pinin’ for the fjords? 

It’s a regrettable rhetorical tic, closely related to others, like the claim that “the internet” — all of it! All trillion pages! — is no fun any more, or the even vaster claim that “culture” — all of it! Everything that humans do together! — has come to a standstill. These vast sweeping hand-wavy universal assertions … is there no end to them? Why can’t they come to a standstill? Why can’t they shuffle off their mortal coil? 

You need a generalization you can rely on, and I’ve got one for you. It’s called Sturgeon’s Law: “Ninety percent of everything is crap.” You can do the hand-wavy thing and moan the words “over” and “dead” and “no fun,” or you can follow a better path: sift through the cascade of human productions that come your way to find, and then preserve, the small percentage of it that’s golden.

My name for that pursuit is the Gandalf Option, and I recommend it to you, because (to shift metaphors) it is always better to light a candle than curse the darkness.