Sunday, August 22, 2010

Sunday Morning Coffee: Long Live Literature in the Digital Age!

In the midst of worries about the future of fiction in a digital age, literature (still) matters enough that Jonathan Franzen made the cover of Time two weeks ago. Click here for Lev Grossman's article on Franzen, and Franzen's notes on the novels that most influenced him.

Denis Dutton -- in The Art Instinct: Beauty, Pleasure & Human Evolution (Bloomsbury, 2009; out now in pb)-- argues that fiction is a crucial adaptation for our survival:

"The basic themes and situations of fiction are a product of fundamental, evolved interests human beings have in love, death, adventure, family, justice, and overcoming adversity. 'Reproduction and survival' is the evolutionary slogan, which in fiction is translated straight into the eternal themes of love and death for tragedy, and love and marriage for comedy. [...] Story plots...inevitably follow, as Aristotle realized and Darwinian aesthetics can explain, from an instinctual desire to tell stories about the basic features of the human predicament." (page 132).

For a smart, complex exchange on the value of fiction-- and particularly fiction's relationship to non-fiction-- see Scott Esposito's "On the Insufficiency of Fiction For Our Times." Esposito, editor of The Quarterly Conversation, is responding to recent posts by a number of other critics.

Riffing on Esposito's essay, Levi Stahl (on August 6, in The Constant Conversation) notes: "Outside of the storied coffeeshop of Johnsonian days, there’s never been anything like the Internet for facilitating–hell, even generating–this sort of discussion. If the very idea of a golden age didn’t give me hives, I’d say we were living in it right now."

"Yes, yes!" sings the canary, while lobster claps his claws.

No comments: