The Late American Novel: Writers on the Future of Books

Edited by Jeff Martin and C. Max Magee, Soft Skull, $14.95 trade paper (164p) paper ISBN 978-1-59376-404-3
The order of this anthology feels particularly poignant. While many of the initial essays are repetitive, self-consciously "quirky," or simply obvious, subsequent pieces become meatier, less sentimental, and generally more insightful. Many writers in the early pages reflect, not surprisingly, on the "experience" of a "real" book that anyone wondering about the future of print (and therefore reading this very book) will identify with, but luckily these predictable musings ultimately serve as a point of departure. In a solicitous email exchange, Jonathan Lethem and David Gates swap thoughts on how the characters in their own fiction handle technology, a question that feels more pertinent, somehow, to our reading culture than the means through which we engage with stories. Ander Monson pragmatically reminds us that "we all desire narrative," the persistence of which does feel hopeful here–but is also, simply, true. Deb Olin Unferth brings necessary perspective as she widens the lens: books aren’t the only things that are dying and to mourn them alone would be myopic. (Feb.)
Reviewed on: 02/21/2011
Release date: 03/01/2011
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