Friday, April 15, 2005

But is it a novel?

As someone who "believes" in literature (and I know how extremely dorky and precious it sounds to say something like that and not work at "Harpers," etc), I find myself growing more and more nervous about the state of fiction. I am all for experimentation. However, call it what it is. Don't call it a novel. When you write in choppy sentences, substitute images for description, talk about trademarked items instead of painting a picture with words for the reader, drop and pick up characters or storylines at whim and engage in further flights of poetic license, please don't call it a novel.

There is definitely a place for books like "The Devil Wears Prada" and "Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close." They can touch us, make us laugh, make us cry, but there is definitely something missing.

While Jonathan Safran Foer (JSF, from now on) mentioned last Friday at Columbia's Miller Theater that he feels that as technology changes, so will writing. That there is no way this won't affect literature.

I agree, but I would hope that it would expand research and the multitude of voices within literature. His work reminds me of the scattered nature of Internet searches which is something I find deeply dissatisfying. Given his awareness and sensitivity to the world (we've all read how he writes to escape loneliness... need I add more?), I would hope he would write with profound senstivity, but I worry that he rushed to give readers a sense of the ever-present glare of 9/11 and it's mercucial nature of being so painfully present and always just beyond our reach of comprehension.

I don't know that we need that captured in print. Writers should look to take us beyond ourselves. I don't know if they should be vessels for our confusion.

I look to literature for a way out of the confusion and static of everyday life. Maybe that is how I classify novels. I'm beginning to understand this in a different way, so I owe thanks to JSF for opening my eyes. Only I hope his wife's novel opens the world just that much more.


Anonymous Lauren said...

"I think the new forms being born on the internet are quite in their infancy." Salman Rushdie just said that on WNYC when asked how he thinks the internet is changing writing.

With the advent of blogs, and wow, a blog culture, and especially hyperlinking etc., people are having access new and different ways to tell stories, and narrative itself gets changed at least in an internet capacity.

I think Ms. Nola's point here is a good one. That a book need not be earth shattering to be good (The Devil Wears Prada etc.), and valuable, but should a book that's just "good" be hailed as earth shattering? What effect does The New Technology have on that?

Fri Apr 15, 11:35:00 AM  
Blogger Ms. NOLA said...

It's interesting that you mention, lauren, that Salman Rushdie made these comments as JSF sited him as another example of a writer whose writing disseminates the effect of the Internet. I'm probably using language improperly by saying that, but so be it.

I feel these writers should have a meeting about sticking to the message (they should take a note from Rachel whose comments on staying on message at the pro-choice last April had me in hysterics).

I think that w/ new technology other books can receive word of mouth that they would not otherwise receive. So maybe we should fancy ourselves to be a competitor to the NYTBR. How 'bout it?

Fri Apr 15, 12:02:00 PM  

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