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Reflections of a working writer and reader



The Novel Dies Again

John Freeman in the Guardian and Sergei Lobanov-Rostovsky in The Kenyon Review argue the death of the novel all over again:

And in the end, it’s not Tony who killed the novel, according to Freeman; it’s the decline of public education, the language of advertising, and the visual tyranny of the screen (television, internet, Blackberry), which has taught our eyes “to scan, and to receive, and less and less to read.”

Perhaps change does involve a kind of death? Or is it that the novel is no longer to be found in the places that one normally associates with it?

But let’s face it, if the novel dies as a popular commodity, that only means the commercial novel. With the exception of a few brand-name authors, literary fiction has mostly vanished from commercial publishers’ lists, taking refuge in the world of small presses. And there may be a paradox in this for literary magazines like The Kenyon Review: as journals expand their online presence, it may become easier for readers to find wonderful poetry and short fiction on their screens than it is to find a novel worth reading in the wasteland of their local Barnes & Noble.

3 Responses to “The Novel Dies Again”

  1. Paul says:

    There are a whole host of reasons why people read less, and a debate to be had on whether it is necessarilly a bad thing, and whether TV/Cinema feeds the mind to the same extent as literature.

    But to credit one TV series with fulfilling the search for the Great American Novel seems far fetched.

    I find it hard to believe that any programme/film/book could fully comprehend and communicate the ethnic/religious/social/economic/cultural/regional diversity of America.

    jb says: Thanks, Paul. For keeping things in perspective.

  2. Lee says:

    Dies again? So the phoenix …

    jb says: Yeah, the Phoenix. What would we do without it?

  3. anne says:

    I worked in a bookstore for 9 years and lots of people would ask why we thought no one was reading. We answered that, as a matter of fact, people were buying lots of books. In fact, although in a fairly small town we took in . . . over $3 million a year. People may not be intellectuals and read lots of Tolstoy and Shakespeare, but they’re reading. Look at the people on commuter trains and buses – they’re reading.

    jb says: I expect there will be a few more books sold, Anne.