Friday, February 24, 2012

What Do You Think: Does Fiction Still Matter?

In the early part of the Twentieth Century, fiction had reached new levels of importance. From social satire to the muckraking novels of Norris and Sinclair, fiction writers provided a more realistic view of the world than any medium had before. Novels were the primary form of leisure entertainment in those pre-movie years. Writers took that responsibility seriously. Frank Norris even wrote an important work about the responsibilities of the novelist. The well decorated home displayed fine books with pride.

Now, a century later, bookcases have been replaced by entertainment centers. Even those of us who love books are keeping dozens of books in our electronic devices because they are more modern and more portable, and the limited shelf space around our televisions is full. Fiction is harder than ever to sell, and most of the top titles are aimed at escapism rather than enlightenment. Escapism is an important role, but even there books take a backseat to Netflix and the XBox and Angry Birds. Kids, and especially boys, don't read (or write, or even spell), like they used to.

People are predicting the end of books, and of reading as we know it.

I've painted a bleaker picture than what I think the current reality is, but there's no denying that the novelist's place in the world is not what it once was.

So what do you think? Is fiction writing still important? Why?


Charmaine Clancy said...

As a high school teacher, I come across teen fiction that is extremely important to young people. Many YA novels today openly explore difficult issues and taboo subjects. This is definitely enlightening kids. I am finding kids from my country and this time very protected from things like war and famine, but novels can expose them to at least gain some understanding. I'm also seeing many authors target those boys that are reluctant to read, I'm often recommending James Patterson's Daniel X by telling the boys 'a kid gets GUT-SHOT in it!', this always excites them. I've also tried to target this difficult market with my book MY ZOMBIE DOG. Definitely not a literary piece, but I hope they find it fun enough to want to read more often :)
Wagging Tales

Scott said...

Charmaine, I have to agree that today's most vital writing is found in YA and to some extent in MG novels. Most books that are challenged today fall into those groups because they tackle difficult issues in an often realistic way, and as a result are seen as dangerous, the way novels in the first half of the last century were seen as dangerous. That's where the best stories and much of the best writing can be found.

Julie Daines said...

There are a lot of great books out there that can spawn introspection and some deep thought in kids and teens.

Unfortunately, as the book boom increases, more and more mediocre (or worse) books become available to kids.

So yes, its true, many of todays youth don't spend much time reading. That's why when they do take the time to read, it's important we do our best to steer them in the direction of the good stuff.