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A culture of care is advertised and celebrated and cherished.

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If we tune in carefully, we can detect this growing desire for authenticity all around us.

We can see it in the specificity of the local food movement or the repeated use of the word “proper” on gastropub menus. We can hear it in the use of the word “legend” as applied to anyone who has actually achieved something in the real world. (The elevation of real life to myth!) We can recognize it in advertising campaigns such as for Jack Daniel’s which ache to portray not rebellion but authenticity. We can identify it in the way brands are trying to hold on to, or take up, an interest in ethics, or in a particular ethos. A culture of care is advertised and celebrated and cherished. Values are important once more: the values that the artist puts into the making of an object as well as the values that the consumer takes out of the object. And all these striven-for values are separate to the naked commercial value.

Go deeper still and we can see a growing reverence and appreciation for the man or woman who can make objects well. We note a new celebration of meticulousness, such as the way Steven Wessel makes his extraordinary handmade flutes out of stainless steel. We uncover a new emphasis on design through making in the hand-crafted work of the Raw Edges Design Studios, say, with their Self-Made collection, objects that are original, informed by personal stories and limited edition. Gradually we hear more and more affirmation for those who can render expertly, the sculptor who can sculpt, the ceramist, the jeweler, even the novelist who can actually write. Jonathan Franzen is the great example here: a novelist universally (and somewhat desperately) lauded, raised almost to the status of a universal redeemer, because he eschews the evasions of genre or historical fiction or postmodern narratorial strategies and instead tries to say something complex and intelligent and telling and authentic and well-written about his own time.

It’s not just the story, after all, but how the story is told.

— Edward Docx is a London based writer. Excerpted from “Postmodernism is Dead,” in Prospect.

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