Is the Novel Dying?

As the world gets more complicated, I’d have thought the need for longer works of fiction to describe it would become ever more important; but Philip Roth argues that it’s doomed. No one will read that one solid vessel for personal autonomy in so technological an age as ours.

Worryingly Weberian. I hope he’s wrong, but my lazy experience can hardly counteract it!


4 Comments on “Is the Novel Dying?”

  1. ModWestMuse says:

    Very interesting. Thanks for sharing :-)

  2. Nice post, Mark. This is certainly a real issue. But my intuition is that this sentiment goes back much further in time and has accompanied every shift in media technology.

    Let’s take Socrates as an example, who maintained an oral tradition, never having written anything himself. The feeling toward writing there was that it would dumb people down by not requiring them to remember anything themselves. That prediction didn’t seem to pan out, though. And thanks to Plato, we get to enjoy Socrates’ words via written text.

    The same point can be made about the Internet. Why gain any knowledge when we have Google at our fingertips? Yet people are certainly more knowledgeable now, because of the Internet.

    The value of older forms of media usually fade with the newest changes but then are rediscovered as the trade-offs that are inevitably made are worked out. People realize what they gave up and they include the old stuff in their repertoire.

    General trends will change and behaviors will be modified, yes. But people will still read novels printed on paper, they’ll still pay to go the movies, and they’ll still tell oral stories to one another. That’s because all of these things have value of their own. And the Internet makes discovery and access to all of these things much more likely.


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