The future of the Novel. I had an interesting discussion about the future of the Novel. This was the result of a discussion regarding my recent blog post on what books were on my Kindle. My friend asked me if I thought books would continue given the short attention spans of young people these days and their need to multi task. At first, I said yes. Because most forms of media have lasted even though new forms have come along. But then I realized that was saying that books would continue albeit in electric form but like TV’s effect on radio, the type of content would change. For those of my generation and maybe even the generation of my children (now entering mid life), we enjoy giving up control of our minds and emotions to a write or a director of a movie. But this pretty much only possible in a linear medium. Novels take a lot of work to read because they ask for us to pay attention and to use our imagination to bring to life in our minds what the words on the page our saying. Maybe a generation that has grown up with the Internet will not learn the disciple to read through a 300 page novel. I pass no value judgment in this.
Avram, I respectfuly disagree with your post. The internet generation has made Harry Potter a fabulous success. They were devoted to that series much as the TV generation was devoted to Lord of the Rings. I just read Ender’s Game, a novel that shapes the lives of its young readers, soldier readers, lots of readers. They read a book like this actively, eager to lose themselves in it. It hits them with the force of some kind of conversion. That’s hardly a passive experience. Fiction won’t disappear, but the contents will change. I can imagine interactive novels, more nonfiction novels, serialized blog novels, a promiscuous hybridization of forms. By the way, a very good book that argues for more humanistic content and forms among the technocrats is Jaron Lanier’s “I’m Not a Gadget.”
Harriet, thanks so much for your comment. I guess because my children are older and my grandchildren to young to read Harry Potter, I forget about its success. I am not sure what the demographics are.
I did not mean to imply that fiction would disappear. I was restricting myself to todays format of a linear novel.
Thanks for pointing me to Jaron Lanier’s book. I just read his op ed in the WSJ. I have never been a big fan of his for various reasons including not liking people to refer to themselves as the father (or mother) of anything.