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An injured body

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I love reading novels for three reasons, primarily.  The first is relief of boredom.  The second is the pleasurable stimulation I experience when I'm engaged in a story.  And the third is the comfort I derive from novels.  Learning from Turgenev's Fathers and Sons, for example, that the contours of generation struggle have changed remarkably little since the nineteenth century made me feel wonder at the consistency of human travails throughout time and the support we can find in the written records of our forebears.

That said, I didn't expect to find comfort in novels for the irritation and insecurity occasioned by the current state of the publishing industry.  The decline in reading rates, the competition from the Internet and video games, the market preference for memoirs/how-to's/biz books, the current economic downturn -- these harbingers of the death of the novel I took to be burdens I'd have to shoulder without aid from authors of an earlier era.  How often I'd thought my publishing woes would be solved if only I'd been writing during the heyday of Grove Press, in the years of Max Perkins . . .

But Jane Austen set me straight.  "[I]f the heroine of one novel be not patronized by the heroine of another, from whom can she expect protection and regard?  I cannot approve of it. . . . Let us not desert one another; we are an injured body," Austen writes, taking her stand in Northanger Abbey.  "Although our productions have afforded more extensive and unaffected pleasure than those of any other literary corporation in the world, no species of composition has been so much decried.  From pride, ignorance, or fashion, our foes are almost as many as our readers."

Ah me.  To be assuaged with such thorny balm -- the assurance that writing novels would be a miserable pursuit whenever I'd be born; to be comforted with the knowledge that reports of the death of the novel are greatly exaggerated -- and have been so for some two hundred years; I can only love reading novels even more.

About this Archive

This page is an archive of recent entries in the Fathers and Sons category.

Emma is the previous category.

Gilead is the next category.



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