WHAT THE HELL

Kevin Brennan Writes About What It's Like

Craig Nova on the future of the novel

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In July I did a brief post about the future of the novel, provoked by a quote I’d run across by novelist Craig Nova. Mr. Nova has recently chimed in himself with an unexpected comment to the post!

If you’re not familiar with his work, Nova’s writing (according to his Wiki page) “has appeared in Esquire, The Paris Review, The New York Times Magazine, and Men’s Journal, among others. His short story, ‘The Prince,’ won an O. Henry Award. His first novel, Turkey Hash, won the prestigious Harper-Saxton Award. Nova received an Award in Literature from the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters and received a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1997.”

In the post, I bitched a little about how the culture seems to have relegated the novel to entertainment status, whereas Nova still maintains that “[the novel] will not only survive, but thrive. It will become the method by which we judge our morality.”

In his new comment, Nova concludes: “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.”

This is a message I need to hear from time to time. Weekly would be good. It’s important to remember that the novel has been through the wars and has survived. It has changed, certainly. It’s come a long way (thank God) since Pamela. And it will continue to evolve. Those of us who invest ourselves in its progress are part of the evolution and ought to be damned proud of that. I think we grasp it even if we’re not always entirely aware of it.

Do yourself a favor and look into the work of Craig Nova. I’m reading his classic The Good Son right now. His latest is a follow-up to that book, All The Dead Yale Men (Counterpoint, June 2013). Read my original post, Nova’s comment, and my reply here.

Also revisit the important novel by Ford Madox Ford, The Good Soldier. It’s about a hundred years old now, but its influence is still being felt.

5 comments on “Craig Nova on the future of the novel

  1. 1WriteWay
    January 3, 2014

    I remember debates on the future of the novel from way back in grad school … dating myself to 20+ years ago. I don’t have any scientific studies to back me up, but I think at least some of the “entertainment”-type novels are just the blips that the media latches onto and makes a big deal of, leading the rest of us to think that all anybody wants to read is 50 Shades of [fill in the blank]. And as long as bestseller lists are merely quantifying people’s interest in books and only for limited time periods, then it will be hard to get a grasp on what people are really reading.

    • Kevin Brennan
      January 3, 2014

      Yet, in terms of sheer numbers, people are reading the “entertainment” books more than the more challenging, innovative books that might be talked about years from now. I think Nova is right, in that things could improve over time, but certainly for now it seems like we’re in the proverbial lonesome valley.

      But, also as he points out, something is always killing the novel… Today it’s video games and the net, tomorrow it might be holographic porn. Who knows?

      Hmmmm. Holographic porn…

      • 1WriteWay
        January 3, 2014

        Not going to touch that one, Kevin 😉
        By the way, we were watching Voyager the other night and part of the plot was the holodeck going off kilter during a Beowulf program. Yup, Beowulf. That episode got my attention … as far as it went 🙂 Personally, I miss Star Trek: The Next Generation. It always gave me a warm, fuzzy feeling to see Capt. Picard carrying around one of his books.

      • Kevin Brennan
        January 3, 2014

        Beowulf on the holodeck? Aw-some!

        I was heavily into TNG for a while. Somewhere in there Battlestar Galactica got me, but I never tried Voyager… You may have convinced me to grab a few episodes!

      • 1WriteWay
        January 3, 2014

        I don’t like Voyager as much as TNG. Well, we’ve only watched the first five episodes and it’s slowly growing on me. But Kate Mulgrew’s voice gets under my skin, unfortunately: She sounds like a munchkin. That said, when we’re in the mood for a utopian vision, we watch Voyager. If we want a dystopian vision, we watch Firefly. And when Greg’s out stargazing, I watch Twin Peaks 🙂

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This entry was posted on January 2, 2014 by in Writing and tagged , , , , , , , , .
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