I saw this article about 10 days ago but didn't have the chance to properly comment on it until now for one reason and another. I just haven't been able to stop thinking about it though because I disagree so very strongly with it.
It's not often that I find myself in disagreement with great authors and people I hold in very high esteem but I guess there's always an exception. Basically, Philip Roth, the American writer who has written around 30 novels and been awarded numerous literary awards has said that he thinks that within 25 years the novel will have become a fringe cult, something only enjoyed by a select few. And that's an optimistic time frame, he thinks, due to the mass onslaught of media these days. With options like the movies, the internet, iPods and suchlike who'd want to pick up a humble book?
Well, me, for one. But I very much doubt that I will be the only one. The one thing that convinces me most strongly about this is what I see every single time I walk into a book store here in Taiwan. Taiwan is arguably one of the most technology-saturated nations on this planet - more than half of the population at any given time seems to be "plugged in" in one way or another and yet what do I see when I walk into the bookstores? Hoards of people with their nose buried in a book. Never before in my life have I had to pick my way along the aisles of a bookstore so carefully - folks here think nothing of finding themselves a wee corner and tucking into whichever book they happen to have picked up - the place is strewn with reading bodies! Moreover, when I catch the train into Taipei, half of the carriage is reading something, more often than not a novel.
Image credit: Here
How, then, can this claim that the novel is going extinct be true? It has survived the advent of the radio, the TV and the internet. In actual fact, the internet has probably done more to promote and facilitate the activity of reading through the invention of blogs and websites such as Bookcrossing. Book blogs abound out there, all of them written by avid readers who would choke on the very idea that books and reading could ever be pushed aside by technology. In fact, for a laugh I googled "book blogs" and "technology blogs" and found that the book blogs outweighed their technological cousins nearly 2:1. It's not a scientific study, but it's an interesting indication.
I guess the thing I found the worst about this claim was that Philip Roth is one of us - one of the bookworm club - and here he was, seemingly attacking the thing we all love the most. Maybe he was having a bad day. Maybe he was having one of the post-publication panics he talks about in the article. Who knows? One thing is for sure though - I look forward to being around 25 years from now and seeing the printed word still going strong.
What do you think? Do you agree with Roth or do you think the novel will prevail? Add a comment or vote in the poll!