Whither the novel?

Iris Murdoch and John Bayley called it “Whithering”: the process of attending conferences where everyone solemnly held forth on questions like the above. We have a few answers:

1) Prufrock’s Page quotes Amitav Ghosh (tried the Mumbai Mirror link, but it’s not working):

“Naipaul has reached the end of his fictional capacities, which is what he is saying. I am a great admirer of Naipaul. But this is such a strangely disingenuous thing to say…He’s run out of material so he thinks that the novel as a form is finished.”
He goes on: “The world has always been a complicated and difficult place…It’s true that there have been terrible incidents of terrorism recently. But what are these compared to the second or first world war or even the cold war? There are a thousand times you can think of when the world was a lot more complicated, when there was more violence. For the West, terrorism is new. We, in India, have lived with it for 20 years…This does not kill fiction. The more complicated the world becomes, the greater is the need for it. Fiction explains the world, gives a shape to the world, represents it, makes it understandable. Fiction is essential. People have been declaring the death of the novel for at least 70-80 years. The novel has not only not died but is, in fact, flourishing…”

2) Amazon.com thinks short stories might be the way to go. They’re offering brand-new work at 49c a throw. Audrey Niffenegger, Pico Iyer, Ann Beattie, Robert Silverberg, Michael Swanwick, and much more.

3) And Scott Sigler is podcasting his new novel. Podiobooks has five more titles.

4) Tim Clare knows that everyone has a novel in them, and argues that’s where it should stay.





2 responses to “Whither the novel?”

  1. Ananya B Avatar

    Yes, the need for fiction in an average person’s life may ebb or flow, and at times like this (with terrorism and the war in Iraq in constant news) there may be a greater need for nonfiction, in order to understand the world better. However, the bitter realities of the world might not prevent me from reading somebody’s fictive (and hopefully more interesting) take on it. Moreover, I may even (mistakenly perhaps) take refuge in an old classic, believing that it may shed some light on the puzzle that is human character/human experience.

  2. PrufrockTwo Avatar

    Sorry about that link: the problem with the Mumbai Mirror website is that articles are available for viewing only for 24 hours…

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