Why write novels in the age of tweets?
I do wonder about this a lot. I wonder it as I note that most things that interest me are old-fashioned. I am never on the cutting edge.
Of course the pronouncement of the death of the novel is nothing new. But in the age of micro-bursts of stimulation, where 60 undivided seconds is considered epic, how many people still read 300-page novels?
Some must. There are writers are making good money. But I notice almost all of them are genre writers—mystery, crime (really big these days, and the more grisly the better), sci-fi and fantasy, and of course vampires and werewolves. As a general rule, you can put them down and pick them up again anywhere, in small, medium or big bites. Can’t do that with Jose Saramago or Paul Scott or Virginia Woolf.
But perhaps this is nothing new. “I like a good western. You can pick them up and put them down anytime,” says the police sergeant to the dime-store novel writer in 1949’s The Third Man. Today, however, sitting in the coffee shop where I like to write, I note that everyone around me is on an electronic gadget. Despite the proximity of two bookstores (both with smaller inventories than they used to; one is close to going out of business), no one is reading a book, much less a novel.
In all fairness, I do see a good deal of reading in here, and it’s novels. But computer use outnumbers novel-reading, and I live in an area that is supposed to be well above the national average in terms of literacy and book-reading.
I hope novels don’t go the way of classical music, old films, and other activities that are special interest, for connoisseurs (read: geeks). In the meantime, I stubbornly continue to write. I to see people around me tweeting and Facebooking and playing with their cellphone apps instead of getting lost in the stream of consciousness of a good author.
But I don’t care. Some thoughts can’t be tweeted. Those mustn’t be allowed to disappear.
I think Virginia Woolf would agree.
What about you? Do you read less and tweet more? Does your laptop time take away from your reading time? Share your thoughts. —Hey, you can use a computer to do it!