WHAT THE HELL

Kevin Brennan Writes About What It's Like

What is the future of the novel?

headshotWell, author Craig Nova (The Good Son), sez:

Now, in the modern age, the novel is the way we discover what we really believe.  If we tell a story, and it seems true and the characters seem real, and the resolution is correct, we are able to say that we are certain, or more certain than before about what we think is true.   The novel in the modern age is the answer or the response to a line in Camus’ notebook, which is, “That wild human longing for clarity….”  It is this wild longing that the novel satisfies, and as long as it does that, and as along as a novelist is honest about what it is like to be human, it will not only survive, but thrive.   It will become the method by which we judge our morality.

I’m not so sure about that last bit. The culture seems to have a different take than Mr. Nova on what novels are for.

What do you think?

(Via Salon.)

9 comments on “What is the future of the novel?

  1. Christopher Lee Deards
    July 17, 2013

    Mr. Nova is speaking to what makes a novel endure. What makes the novel timeless. In his view the future of the novel is unchanged. Immutable.
    I have given some thought to the future of the novel. With the increasing use of e-books and interactive readers I feel that the novel is destined to become an interactive story experience, where the reader can opt to take the role of the protagonist and make decisions within the world the author has created–an intelligent text based story.
    As you can see I haven’t thought through all of the details.

  2. Kevin Brennan
    July 17, 2013

    I hope Nova is right about the immutability of the novel. What you describe, though, seems like a different experience altogether, more like video games than what we think of as the novel.

    Thanks for your thoughtful comment!

  3. francisguenette
    July 17, 2013

    I love the idea that all I need do as a novelist is to be honest about what makes life human. I do believe I can manage that. I’ve often thought about this idea that “art” could be seen as a measure of an entire culture’s morality. Wonderful, philosophical musings. Thanks.

    • Kevin Brennan
      July 17, 2013

      It is an interesting idea, isn’t it. I don’t know much about the philosophy of art, but I’ve always been intrigued by how it’s defined, who gets to define it, and how we can tell when the culture has become decadent and “art” meaningless. (Not to get too grim…) My doubts about Nova’s last line were simply to suggest that entertainment seems to have won the war, which probably in itself says something about our morality.

  4. Craig Nova
    December 20, 2013

    I’d like to add a little something to my comments about the future of the novel. The truth is that the writing life is an up and down proposition, but the same holds true for the novel. Not so long ago, or maybe a long time ago, when I was a student, I heard a lot about how the novel was dead and that the documentary film had killed it off. I don’t need to go into the profound misunderstanding of what a novel does where this theory of the triumph of the documentary is concerned, but I do mean to say that the existence of the novel is an up and down proposition, too.

    And, as far as a novel being honest about what it’s like to be human is concerned, I think this means to put into a dramatic form our fears, desires, failures, successes, vulnerability, attractions, frustrations, sense of humor, and other items along these lines.

    I am not sure that the Genre Way of Knowledge is the end of history for the novel, and, if anything, I am glad that so many people are reading. Sooner or later, I hope, they will pick up a copy of the Good Soldier.

    I am not sure, also, that a novelist has any other recourse than defiance.

    That’s my hero talking, Albert Camus.

    So, I guess, where there is impassioned truth and hard hitting defiance, there is hope, too. It just seems dark, and probably is, but that doesn’t mean it is going to be that way forever. Ask anyone who has been through a tough time, and they will tell you, as I am sure you know, that in the middle it seemed endless.

    • Kevin Brennan
      December 22, 2013

      Thank you so much for dropping by to comment, Mr. Nova. I appreciate your taking the time.

      I agree with your remarks completely. I think every writer who wants to honor the history of the novel and extend its progress has the defiance you’re talking about. It’s the fuel that keeps them going when, as you say, the darkness “seems endless.” Yes, there is always hope. There is always something new to say about the human condition, and so there will always be ways to do that. The novel evolves.

      I’m really glad to hear you mention The Good Soldier. It was one of the most influential books in my own development, and I like the idea that most readers will eventually pick it up — kind of like those typing monkeys that pound out King Lear. (I don’t mean to equate readers with monkeys, though!)

      Finally, thanks for your own contribution to the progress of the novel. I hope readers here will pick up All The Dead Yale Men soon, and revisit, at least, The Good Son.

  5. Kevin Brennan
    July 16, 2014

    Reblogged this on WHAT THE HELL and commented:

    Reblogging my own post, but it seems a good idea once a year or so to review why we do what we do. Be sure to read Mr. Nova’s comment too!

  6. John W. Howell
    July 16, 2014

    Good idea. Really liked Craig Nova’s comment about defiance. Good idea.

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This entry was posted on July 17, 2013 by in Writing and tagged , , , , , , , .
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