There are two types of people in the world: those who realize that this world is constantly reinventing itself and are usually capable of recognizing the new directions in which the world is headed, and those who can’t.
There’s this pathological fear that the world is more and more superficial; kids are dumb, the world is too fast and hungry and wants only to be fed information via an usb cable, people aren’t reading, paperbacks aren’t selling, bookstores are closing, and no one seems to read the newspapers anymore. And this is a global fear, it affects people on all continents, and yet…
The novel is not dead. Nor are short stories, or even plays. Why? Simply because there’s still a need, there’s still a demand. But the world is changing, I give you that. And the way people read has changed along the decades in such a subtle way that it requires a lot of attention to notice it. The way stories are told has changed as well; they are much more minimalistic, the style of most writers is terse, stripped naked of all embellishments.
But the novel is not dead, and it will never be. No matter what. And I strenuously believe it, simply because it’s one of our most fundamental of desires: to tell stories, to read them, to hear them, to share them. And there’s magic involved too. Imagine reading a book, imagine the solitude that the act requires, imagine the questions and the answers. And then there’s that certain empathy, the link that an author establishes with his reader. It’s a fascinating process, to be able to see into another person’s mind, to find another human being functioning in a different way than you are, to compare, to absorb ideals and beliefs in such an organic way. The best of books are not read like books. As cheesy as it sounds, they transfigure their medium, they become much more than just words.
And this leads me to my topic. That’s all that matters: words. I really don’t care how people read, whether is on a computer screen or on their cell phones, I care about the fact that people are reading, they are taking pleasure from this act, and the novel isn’t dead nor dying. Indeed, I have to admit that I prefer paper books. I like the touch, the feel, the smell, I like to stay away from a shiny screen for a couple of hours, but in the end, all that matters is the fact that people are reading.
This is how we work. We’re constantly changing, we’re constantly evolving – and evolution is a slow process, sometimes taking place unnoticed. I’m living proof of a new era. I live a few thousand miles away from any of my writer friends, I write in English, and I’m being read mostly in America. And still, I have friends from Palestine, from Kansas, or from Birmingham. This world is fast and hungry, and there are so many writers who are happy to share their stories with other people. There are so many people, from different backgrounds, all interacting with each other, that it would be a shame not to absorb as much of it as possible.
I think these are interesting times we live in. Especially for writers. The level of interaction available in this multi layered, interconnected world is fantastic, and a writer can derive a great deal of inspiration from it all.
And do not worry about the novel. It has survived countless revolutions (even an industrial one,) it has survived wars and plagues, and two world conflagrations that nearly destroyed this Planet. It has survived all sorts of regimes, it has survived oppression and slavery, and it’s still alive and kicking. So do not worry about the novel. It will be around for as long as we’ll be around.