Walker Percy and the non-novel.

The psychiatrist here at the day job, knowing I have two more days here, thoughtfully gave me a parting gift of this rare nonfiction from Walker Percy – "The State of the Novel – Dying Art or New Science?" – I haven’t had time today to read it all the way through, but here’s the lead:

The novel is regularly said to be dying – and now it is said with perhaps more justification than at any other time.  In fact it is difficult now even to speak of the novel as a generic art form.  If one uses as a criterion the familiar features of the traditional novel – plot, scene, characterization, actions, denouement, development of character and so on – it is hard to find a worthy example of the ancient art.  Anything can and does pass for a novel now.  A novel is what you call something that won’t sell if you call it poems or short stories.  Autobiography is novel.  History is novel.  Sociology is novel.  Tirade is novel.  I am not complaining.  For the undeniable fact is that non-novels which pass as novels now are usually better than novels which look like novels.

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