Basically, Roth says, the novel is screwed. Not even the Kindle can save the novel, because it has to compete against all those screens: first the movie screen, then the TV screen, and now the computer screen. Now all three of those are out there, and the book just doesn’t measure up.
Roth predicts that in 25 years the novel will have a “cultic” following, perhaps slightly larger than the group of people who now read Latin poetry. What do you think? Is he right? Or will the novel carry on as it has these last centuries?
It does occur to me that as recently as a century or two ago, the reading public for a novel was perhaps at what Roth might call a cultic level. Then came the Golden Age of Reading, from perhaps the late 1800s through, say, the 1930s. Now novel-reading is in an inevitable decline, soon to return to being the pastime of a small group of hobbyists?
But perhaps Roth is speaking only of the literary novel, which already could be said to have largely a cultic following, big prizes and splashy headlines aside. People line up for Dan Brown’s pulp, but how many will read Roth’s latest offering, The Humbling? And he is among the biggest names among contemporary literary novelists, if a grumpy one. What hope, then, for those as-yet unknown writers?
Have a look at the video, and then have your say in the comments.