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Tuesday, May 21, 2019

The Long, Slow Death of the Literary Novel

     The novel has always had enemies, but they have not always been the same enemies. Its earliest enemies condemned the novel as a frivolous waste of time….Scorn for the triviality of the novel persisted among many American people throughout the nineteenth century. And it still persists in some quarters: not long ago [1955] an advertisement for the Reporter boasted that the readers of that magazine, among many other virtues, "prefer non-fiction over fiction by a 10 to 1 vote."

     Of course, most novels published in the nineteenth century were, and most novels published today [1957] are, a waste of time, but now no moderately well informed person damns the novel on that account. Those who insist that the novel is dead are most emphatic in proclaiming the greatness of novels written in the good days before the fatal seizure. The talk about the death of the novel is, if one chooses to look at it that way, proof that at least the novel is taken seriously. [Today, except in academic literary circles, the "serious" novel is not taken very seriously. Genre fiction and nonfiction have taken over. And that is good news.]

Granville Hicks, "The Enemies of the Novel," in The Living Novel, Granville Hicks, Editor, 1957

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