Why Write Novels?

“The roots of this question, in its contemporary incarnation, can be traced back to the French sociologist Pierre Bourdieu, who at the dawn of the ’80s promulgated the notion of “cultural capital”: the idea that aesthetic choices are an artifact of socioeconomic position. Bourdieu documented a correlation between taste and class position: The scarcer or more difficult to access an aesthetic experience is — the novel very much included — the greater its ability to set us apart from those further down the social ladder. This kind of value is, in his analysis, the only real value that “refined” tastes have.”

“Even as you read this, engineers in Silicon Valley are hard at work on new ways to delight you — gathering the entire field of aesthetic experience onto a single screen you’ll be able to roll up like a paperback and stick in your back pocket. It’s safe to say that delight won’t be in short supply, and as long as there’s juice in the battery, we won’t have to feel alone. But will we be alone? Literature, to a degree unique among the arts, has the ability both to frame the question and to affect the answer. This isn’t to say that, measured in terms of cultural capital or sheer entertainment, the delights to which most contemporary “literary fiction” aims to treat us aren’t an awful lot. It’s just that, if the art is to endure, they won’t be quite enough.”

More: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/01/15/magazine/why-write-novels-at-all.html?_r=1

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