Tuesday, September 14, 2010

any number of reasons to want novels to survive

"There are any number of reasons to want novels to survive. The way [Jonathan] Franzen thinks about it is that books can do things, socially useful things, that other media can't. He cites -- as one does -- the philosopher Soren Kierkegaard and his idea of busyness: that state of constant distraction that allows people to avoid difficult realities and maintain self-deceptions. With the help of cell phones, e-mail and handheld games, it's easier to stay busy, in the Kierkegaardian sense, than it's ever been.

Reading, in its quietness and sustained concentration, is the opposite of busyness. "We are so distracted by and engulfed by the technologies we've created, and by the constant barrage of so-called information that comes our way, that more than ever to immerse yourself in an involving book seems socially useful," Franzen says. "The place of stillness that you have to go to to write, but also to read seriously, is the point where you can actually make responsible decisions, where you can actually engage productively with an otherwise scary and unmanageable world."

— Lev Grossman, from the recent cover article in
Time on Franzen and his new novel, Freedom.

I'm on my way to see Franzen give a reading at downtown Seattle tonight. After reading his controversial, sweeping novel The Corrections this past summer, I'm quite excited to see someone whose work is not only a part of the conversation of the literary world but of our culture as a whole! What, novels, relevant? Yes!

(Also, this happens to be my 100th post here!)

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