Critical Linking: June 8, 2012

I don’t think there’s any question that novels are no longer at the center of our political or cultural conversation. Politics belongs to the Internet, and culture is all cable TV. But this is something to celebrate! It means those other media are growing up; they’re getting serious. And it doesn’t mean the novel is in decline, or that novels are any less political or cultural. In fact, I think this new competition — especially the Internet — helps us see exactly what’s most remarkable about the novel: it works on a different timescale.

I am pleasantly surprised by the debate going on at the New York Times about the changing state of fiction. There are some very interesting points being made.


Digital has allowed for unprecedented freedom in an astounding number of areas in publishing. Digital backlist has unlocked older content for a whole new generation of readers; digital pricing has allowed publishers and authors to play around with different price points and adjust on the fly. And if an author wanted to experiment and branch out into a new genre altogether, the time and cost are no longer prohibitive.

Every time I question the existence of e-books, someone reminds of the good that can come from digital publishing.


 “I think our country is in need of a revolution,” Bradbury told the Los Angeles Times in 2010. “There is too much government today. We’ve got to remember the government should be by the people, of the people, and for the people.”

They label him a “Great Conservative.”  I don’t know that these words fit that image.


Academic literary criticism has, for the last eighty years, become hung up on ‘textuality’: intertextuality, paratextuality, subtextuality, contextuality – count the ways. If there is a motto generally subscribed to, it is Jacques Derrida’s – Il n’y a pas de hors-texte (‘there is nothing outside the text’). The whole profession is following the pipes of Pan(textuality) – Hamelin-style…

So, the physical book is more important than the words contained with in it?


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