I recently bought “The Late American Novel: Writers on the Future of Books” co-edited by C. Max Magee, creator/editor of The Millions. I really thought it looked promising since there is very little serious writing on this particular contemporary issue. Unfortunately, I have read the first six (very short) essays in the anthology and it is an overwhelming disappointment.
Category Archives: Books
I have finally, as anyone who cares about art should, read Benjamin’s “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction.” I did not know what to expect, and was surprised by what I found. It is an essay that deals mostly with film and not at all with literature. Despite the author’s political tendencies he had some very remarkable points about the nature of art — remarkable in that they were honest and clear and, well, novel. He examines the implications of technical (not manual) reproduction on the properties and values of traditional art forms, moving to film as an exemplar of an art created in this new environment of reproduction. But he doesn’t mention literature. Continue reading
I am not at all convinced that “literary” is a proper genre specification of the novel in the same way that “science fiction” is a genre. It seems that perhaps a “novel” is inherently literary and so there are genres of fiction, the novel being one. If anything, this clarification of terms is simply to preface the following words on the current discussion of literary vs. genre fiction and the problem of audience and marketing that the former type is experiencing in the digital age.
The novel as a literary genre is a pretty broad category. There are, of course, sub-genres such as romance and sci-fi, and it is common to even hear the term “literary novel” used by critics and writers. The novel is a type of fiction, but other than that the genre is pretty undefined which will pose a problem as technology changes the way in which novels are written, published and read.
This piece at the Financial Times adds “novel of ideas” and the “philosophical” novel to the mix of novelistic types.
In an April 12th essay online at Granta, author Toby Litt writes one of the better reflections on the multifaceted impact of technology on the literary novel. Entitled “The Reader and Technology,” I had expected another nostalgia-driven tirade against technology, but was pleasantly surprised.