The end of 2005 was littered with top ten, top 100, and year-in-review lists. Along with these offerings were the usual sooth-sayer columns citing the ‘death’ of this or that. Rachel Giese’s 2005 retrospective at the CBC arts website asked the question, Is Fiction Dead?
Shh! No one tell the novelists — they are tender souls — but the big book story this year was the death of fiction. Literary media, like the make-or-break-an-author’s-reputation New York Times Book Review, have cut back on reviews of novels in favour of non-fiction coverage. Globally, fiction sales are down. Publishers and agents returning from the Frankfurt Book Fair reported that Canadian fiction, despite its stellar international reputation, wasn’t generating the heat it used to.
Ouch! Tender souls, indeed.
To Ms. Giese’s credit, she went on to throw a few literary bones to both writers and readers, mentioning highlights in Canadian fiction, the strength of a few first ficion titles, and the unstopable, unsinkable Margaret Atwood.
Unbridled Books’ Blog tackled the same theme in the post: Is Fiction Necessary?
When so successful and gifted a novelist as Jane Smiley feels it necessary produce her own course of literary study — Thirteen Ways of Looking at the Novel (Knopf) — just to convince herself that fiction still matters, then we have a problem.
But dear Fred Ramey saved many writers from running to the kitchen for the meat cleaver by making this assertion:
It seems clear to me that there’s an essential role for fiction now, when who we are is such an important consideration.
Bless you, Fred!
And now I’ll go out on the hopeful limb and say that I think fiction isn’t dead at all…the signs are there, if we only point them out and crow about them twice as often as the naysayers shake their heads. Here are but a few “Fiction is ALIVE” sightings:
1. Tralee Pierce gave a glimmer of hope in her 2006 Globe and Mail trends column, You in 2006.
The Reading Fiction. After several seasons of political bestsellers, you’re tired of anti-Bush rants geared toward the liberal book-reading minority. You’ve had it up to here with “reality-lit”…You’re still keen to learn about the world, but you’re hungry for a story, an intellectual diversion that reveals itself through charatcers, plot, and language.”
2. In response to National Novel Writing Month, there’s now:
National Just Read More Novels Month!
3. and M.J. Rose, (the promotional goddess of all things literary) has declared that 2006 is the year to Adopt a Reader. (More on this in my next post!)
If you make any sightings (web related or otherwise) that prove that fiction is indeed alive and kickin’, let me know and I’ll post them right here!