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Friday, June 28, 2013

The Literary Time Machine

Aside from a selfish and illogical desire to live forever, here's an additional delusional reason I want to be alive 100 years from now: To facilitate discussions circa 2115 about literature of the late 20th and early 21st century. I'm dying to know what discerning readers of the early 22nd century make of the novels from our era that are still being read.

After stopping full time work, I set several guidelines for my reading life. Among those was returning to the established literary canon to read something by any author I hadn't yet sampled. So far, this is not going so well. Could be my picks; could be timing; could be I'm hopelessly stuck in my own time. But whatever it is, often while reading something from the 19th or early 20th century, I'm a bit flummoxed. Just two days ago, I found myself saying aloud "Answer the question!!" to yet another character giving a maddeningly indirect answer to a very straightforward question posed by a different character. In that moment of reading frustration I began wondering about those 2115 readers. How will they perceive the speaking and writing rhythms of our time? I want to hear those people discuss the dialogue and characters of Toni Morrison, Philip Roth, Anne Tyler. That is, if those three current giants make it to the canon.

As always, my hope is some of you will shed your light on this subject. I once had a work colleague, an English Lit major, who was horrified when her college professor first extolled and then assigned John Updike's short story "A&P". After completing the assignment, hating the story, and forsaking any future with Updike, she was anxious to get back to Jane Austen, the Bronte sisters, Henry James, etc. My trip in the literary time machine? The exact opposite. My recent visit to Victorian England in the late 19th century had me aching for late 20th century noise, like ... John Updike. And though I'm not giving up on the canon, now  those 2115 readers are in my head.


  1. All 22C lit w/b writn n shrthnd. F n txt @all.

    1. So clever, my dear; wish I'd seen it (or reacted if I did see it) when you wrote it.