What is the fate of the novel?
In class today we discussed where prose is heading in our digitized world of short attention spans. In a world where we read in 140 characters or less and in which we spend an average of five minutes reading the New York Times online, is Powers' novel foreshadowing the kind of abbreviated prose and fragments structure that will be seen more often in the coming years? Where is our beloved novel headed?
It's interesting to think of Powers' novel as a continuation of the kind of modernist work set forth by Joyce and Faulkner. Now is not the first time that fragmentation and slim prose has been featured in the novel; we've been there, done that. So why is this significant now? When Joyce and Faulkner and all of the other modernists wrote, there was no social push to shorten the lengthy. In the way that we spend six hours online, the modernists lived in a time that didn't see finding six hours to read as a huge commitment. We're used to four-minute YouTube clips and three-minute bursts of music from our iPods. If we want to know a fact, we don't read a biography - we Google it.
In many ways, it seems that our society "selects" the concise. I read a review of Powers' novel comparing it to his previous works. The critic stated that Generosity lacks complexity in its need to appeal to the generic reader. As the typical reader demands the "short version", I do question how recent highly acclaimed literary works - such as Saramago's Blindness - will stand in a society that seems to be selecting against its execution and length.