I am now blogging at a new blog: erdman31.com

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Monday, April 05, 2010

The State of Fiction

Special thanks to my friend Aeyn, for loaning me his copy of The Point, issue two, from which I take this quote, about the state of the novel in today's world:

It is perfectly fair--and what's more, manifestly accurate--to say that social and cultural conditions are presently antithetical in lots of ways to creating literature that resonates with the times....The novelist is caught in a double bind: in order to properly capture the feel of a kinetic, overloaded modern world she must pack more, and more varied, material into her work, but does so for an audience that has less and less inclination to engage with it. Alternatively, the novelist simplifies and straightens her work in order to win readers, but at the expense of representing the world as she truly perceives it to be (i.e. "selling out"). There is a concern that the novel is simply unable, structurally, to harmonize with an era where the written word has been so heavily marginalized by sound and image." (p. 50, "Hard Feelings" by Ben Jeffery)

My friends, why did I embark on the Human Narrative Project? If only I had known that the novel was extinct! Perhaps it is not too late. We can make a subtle change: change the Human Narrative Project from a review of the great novels to an exploration of the world's greatest Youtube videos.


tamie said...

I wonder how they measure and who decides that the novel is become obsolete. Hm.

Jonathan Erdman said...

"They" is Big Brother, of course!

john doyle said...

Why should literature be expected to "resonate with the times"? Isn't an equally valid form of literature one that opens up a world which contrasts sharply with the times? Don't most of the better stories deal with characters who find themselves ambivalent toward or at odds with their times?

Jonathan Erdman said...


Good point. But the struggle here seems to be one that we've discussed at various times: an author can open up a new world, but what if no one wants to portal through it? What if everyone is so preoccupied with the digital sounds and images of the 21st century that they don't care to look for new worlds within the genre of fiction? Does the author keep slugging it out?

tamie said...

There is no doubt about it: an author should definitely keep slugging it out.

Well, I guess it depends on his original desire. Is his original desire to tell a particular story, or to change the culture in which he lives?

Wait! Why are we assuming the author is male?