Saturday, March 03, 2007

The End of the Literary World?

Rich food for thought about novels and their future in today's Guardian Review: Giles Foden bemoaning the fact that 'literary' is a term of abuse, Milan Kundera reflecting on the nature of novels and their creation, and Stephen Page arguing for a more, rather than a less, significant role for publishers and editors in the digital age, all of them circling a central preoccupation expressed thus by Stephen Page:
The world emerging at the start of the 21st century is full of threat to those who create. The desire to commodify all art as some form of entertainment, and the growth of a monoculture based around mass-market tastes and distribution, make many writers feel precarious.
Giles Foden has it in for Richard and Judy and their producer Amanda Ross (who recently stated that she hated the word 'literary' since readers bring to it negative associations) and says:
Personally, I'd rather not listen to the twitterings of a pair of permatanned nincompoops on literary matters.
Well, personally, I'd rather people didn't blame the messengers (or insult them so personally), but to some extent Stephen Page concurs:
For all their great benefits, one of the effects of Oprah Winfrey's book recommendations in the US, and to some extent Richard & Judy's in the UK, is that they create a migration towards a small number of books.
Kundera's fascinating piece is excerpts from a forthcoming book from Fabers. An idea which jumps out for me in the wake of Zadie Smith's recent argument that novels are essentially expressions of an author's personality is Kundera's notion that art, including the novel, is an artist's/author's property to alter or suppress as he/she sees fit (an idea which I discuss on my other blog in relation to my own work). The piece ends on a reflection about the novel as novel, and whether it can survive:
For turning a novel into a theatre piece or a film requires first decomposing the composition; reducing it to just its "story"; renouncing its form. But what is left of a work of art once it's stripped of its form? One means to prolong a great novel's life through an adaptation and only builds a mausoleum, with just a small marble plaque recalling the name of a person who is not there
an issue which I also discuss, in relation to my own writing experience, here.

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