These kids today

Apparently the new subject for fiction is… me. Everyone wants to protect and preserve their super boring internal monologues. I call it “Gaarding the Knauses.” Pro-tip: most Knauses aren’t worth gaarding.

Novels, the argument goes, used to be about power, about settled communities and the forces that drove them, about “society” and its transformations, and explaining, or perhaps only hinting, how the world worked. But you can’t write a novel like Middlemarch in 2020. The information isn’t there any more. Or rather there is so much information, so many accretions of tantalising and contradictory data, that no novelist could possibly make sense of it.

Hence the retreat into self-absorption. No one, the argument continues to run, can write a novel about Trump or Brexit or any of the other calamities that afflict us in these uncertain times head-on. Much better to stick to your honeymoon and the delectable Italian cuisine and let the really serious stuff filter in every so often over the web.

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