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.