Critical Linking: June 7, 2012

I memorized all of “John Carter” and “Tarzan,” and sat on my grandparents’ front lawn repeating the stories to anyone who would sit and listen. I would go out to that lawn on summer nights and reach up to the red light of Mars and say, “Take me home!” I yearned to fly away and land there in the strange dusts that blew over dead-sea bottoms toward the ancient cities.

I hope you made it home, and that it is everything you dreamed it would be.

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There is no fiction in Narnia. There are no novels in Narnia. I think it’s a world so complete, why would you ever want to escape into something else? Imagine a world where you didn’t want to read anymore. How great would that be? And you didn’t need books. Because everything was so full and real. Your life would be sort of that interesting.

While it’s a nice sentiment, I’m a bit bothered by the implication that the only reason we read fiction is to escape. Surely there is more to it than that?

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In literary fiction, there was a new kid on the block and he was called “bad shit happening in your own backyard”. If this kind of thing could happen and wasn’t just fodder for science-fiction fantasies, by rights it must be a candidate for literary realism, which meant that the genre had some stomach-stretching to do. American realism would need to grow beyond the suburban bedroom, absorbing what, the previous day, had been pure fantasy.

Literary fiction needed a kick in the pants – that’s true. I hate that it took an event like 9/11 to make it happen.

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That we even need to contemplate Beach Content Delivery Systems (BCDS) speaks to the world in which we now live, with 21 percent of Americans reading at least one e-book a year, according to Pew Research. Conversations about books these days invariably turn to how we read them, a transformation of our intellectual life that would probably make Gutenberg toss up his Bible in despair.

I love my e-reader, but I think I’ll stick with print at the beach. With my luck, my Nook would end up in the ocean.

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