Friday, June 02, 2006

Fiction is Dead

Okay, so the title's a bit dramatic. But it's true. Not for kids. Kids' fiction is going strong, as it has been for a very long time. Centuries, even. Harry Potter dominates the fictional scene. The Lord of the Rings series has sold many hundreds of thousands of copies lately. His Dark Materials woos many young readers with its grimly atheistic world. The list goes on. But what about adult fiction?

Sure, there's the usual range of murder mysteries and so on. Those will be with us to the end of the age. But what has happened to great adult literature, classics like those written by Stevenson and others decades ago? Where have the Steinbecks gone? The Poes? These authors of fiction, though often read by a younger crowd, spoke to larger realities of their world. Poe, for example, revealed through dreadful horror what a godless world looked like. Steinbeck captured the dust and dread of the Great Depression in his novels, picturing in sparse prose the despair of that age. Make no mistake--these works were often gobbled up by young audiences, but they expressed profoundly adult realities. In fact, contrary to what many would think, fictional literature of the past is some of the more philosophical writing you can find. Philosophy may be woven into character development and plot twists, but it's there.

This has changed today. Now, we don't read fictional stories. Or, if we do, we read pulp novels. John Grisham is one example. His novels don't communicate much in the way of philosophical argument. They are essentially entertainment by way of the written word. No, in this age, adult fiction has died. The agent of this death? The television and movie screen. Our generation has not lost the love of story that so characterized earlier generations. We, however, prefer our stories to be acted out on screen. We do not have time, or patience, or energy for a 500-page novel. Give it to us quick, give it us now, give it us flashy. Sorry, fiction. In case you hadn't noticed, you have passed from the world of adults. Did anyone notice?


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Read Gilead (M. Robbinson); there is yet some good fiction. BC.

5:31 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

There is one librarian in the state of Maine who might disagree with you! Have you read an Anne Tyler novel, or Kite Runner or...?
There are still some wonderful books being written but alas, not nearly as many readers!

5:02 AM  
Blogger Kacie said...

I think Amy Tan is brilliant, and Gabriel Garcia Marquez. I prefer to stick to ancient literature, so I'm afraid I can't name any more good modern authors, but I'm sure they're out there.

8:10 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi....I know this is random, because you've never met me, but I'm a friend of Bethany's. I had to comment because I completely agree with you and have discussed this to a few people. I recently graduated with a degree in English and it frustrated me that the most recent (good) fiction I read in my classes came out of Modernism. However, there are plenty of literary theory critics that are amazing and their works are largely philosophically based, but they're almost always referring back to writers such as Shakespeare, Donne, or others that have come long before.
-Elizabeth C.

12:16 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Two words: Tom Wolfe. A morally serious, philosophically challenging plotting genius and wordsmith. I think in 50 years critics will look on Wolfe as the greatest writer of our time.

5:51 PM  

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