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Is the novel beyond saving?

NOVELISTS ARE A nervy bunch. This is, in many ways, forgivable, or at least understandable. We’re paid to worry, in both senses of the word. We pick away at stuff. Things bother us, and we, in turn, bother them right back. Since we spend all day worrying on behalf of others, it shouldn’t come as much surprise that when we turn away from the worries we’ve just set down on the page we quickly start sniffing around for something we can fret about in our spare time. And what more appropriate subject than the novel itself?

Novelists are very worried about the novel. The novel, you see, keeps dying. No one thought much of it when it arrived; it had a brief reign as a fancy-pants new medium of entertainment; and then it just started dying all over the place. It became too popular. It became too cheap. It got a bit up itself and was no longer popular enough. It became elitist; then populist again. Cinema did for it. Television did for cinema and so double-did for the novel. Then the web came along and did for everything.

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