Rodes Fishburne is an American writer with experience as a journalist, playwright, and novelist. His 2008 novel Going to See the Elephant explores the creative and financial difficulties of writing and employs a euphemism for “going out west,” replete with all the exoticism that comes with it. His 2004 one-act play Waiting for Henry to Snow revolved around the theme of honor, while 2002’s Note to Self dealt with theft and plagiarism. He has written for The New Yorker and The New York Times. Born in Virginia, Fishburne graduated from Emory and Henry College and attended St. Peter’s College, Oxford.
Question: How has the publishing industry changed?
Rodes Fishburne: I think there is space for all kinds of writers. I think the publishing world is undergoing some changes and the internet is going to have an impact on that. Charles Dickens could have gotten one of his books published probably faster in his day than my day, and there is something unusual about that because you would think that everything has been speeding up and progress.
And the publishing industry is not the most fleet-footed of beasts, but I think there will be some changes coming online and with the number of writing outlets today, there is totally a multiple of places for a young writer who is testing out his or her ability to be published, and that is really what, when you are a young writer and you have lots of ideas, the smartest thing to do is to write, and it doesn’t really matter where that is, it matters that you do it.
Question: What is the state of literary fiction today?
Rodes Fishburne: I think literary fiction is in extraordinary good hands today. There are some very smart, very creative, very talented people writing all across the world, and there is always a sort of constant drumbeat that literary fiction is on the decline, or people are not reading as much as they used to, but then we have these weird anomalous things where Harry Potter pops up. If you actually count the amount of pages that are in the entire Harry Potter trilogy, it’s more Proust’s Remembrance of Things Past, which is considered the most massive tome of literary fiction ever written.
And I think that what people forget is that good stories never go out of vogue, whether they are children’s stories or adult stories, and so we cannot challenge literary fiction as not being up to the task, we actually have to challenge the writers to do it, and I think there’s extraordinary things being written, I think the state of fiction is in good hands, it doesn’t feel to me like we are on a decline as is often quoted. If you sat down and wrote down all the people that claimed the novel is dead, well, most of them are dead because it’s taken that long and the novel keeps surviving, so I think the novel is an enduring form. It will undergo some changes, but that’s part of the evolution of it.
Recorded on: June 3, 2008.