Critical Linking: November 1, 2012

And this is something else to factor in: much of the attention that we once gave to short stories, whether they appear in The Paris Review or The New Yorker, we now reserve for a kind of storytelling nonfiction that isn’t quite reportage or memoir, but does tell intimate stories.Indeed, you could as easily ask, why do so many readers and critics today seem to divide their time between novels and essays – those first cousins of the short story – and leave short fiction alone?

Good question. Seems to me that the golden age of hour-long television dramas we are in might have something to do with it as well. An episode of Mad Men or Breaking Bad scratches that bite-sized fiction itch.


(*One has to wonder just how much we’ve regressed to that ancient user-unfriendliness in today’s age of atrocious pagination, endless slideshows, and loud, tragically ad-infested online publishing, which make the experience of reading anything but “agreeable” and “silent.”)

Does one? Or does one merely pass off third-person singular passive aggression?


Perhaps a writer’s task has always been to translate what is most interesting about the world into a format that people can understand and process quickly. We perform a kind of aggregation and compression, zipping up whole industries’ fortunes in a few short sentences. But if an augmented-reality future comes to pass, and I think it will in one form or another, this task will really be laid bare.

A form that people can understand, sure. But part of writing’s value is making us slow down our mental processes. Ulysses, for example, didn’t make the world simpler; it slowed a day down to show the richness of everyday existence. (I have a feeling Joyce would have had fun with augmented reality.)


does Twitter count as word of mouth? The consensus was that increasingly it did.

Weird tense shift aside, I think this is mostly right.