What is Big Think?  

We are Big Idea Hunters…

We live in a time of information abundance, which far too many of us see as information overload. With the sum total of human knowledge, past and present, at our fingertips, we’re faced with a crisis of attention: which ideas should we engage with, and why? Big Think is an evolving roadmap to the best thinking on the planet — the ideas that can help you think flexibly and act decisively in a multivariate world.

A word about Big Ideas and Themes — The architecture of Big Think

Big ideas are lenses for envisioning the future. Every article and video on bigthink.com and on our learning platforms is based on an emerging “big idea” that is significant, widely relevant, and actionable. We’re sifting the noise for the questions and insights that have the power to change all of our lives, for decades to come. For example, reverse-engineering is a big idea in that the concept is increasingly useful across multiple disciplines, from education to nanotechnology.

Themes are the seven broad umbrellas under which we organize the hundreds of big ideas that populate Big Think. They include New World Order, Earth and Beyond, 21st Century Living, Going Mental, Extreme Biology, Power and Influence, and Inventing the Future.

Big Think Features:

12,000+ Expert Videos

1

Browse videos featuring experts across a wide range of disciplines, from personal health to business leadership to neuroscience.

Watch videos

World Renowned Bloggers

2

Big Think’s contributors offer expert analysis of the big ideas behind the news.

Go to blogs

Big Think Edge

3

Big Think’s Edge learning platform for career mentorship and professional development provides engaging and actionable courses delivered by the people who are shaping our future.

Find out more
Close
With rendition switcher

Transcript

Question: Should we rework our notions of the literary canon?

John Irving: I'm not interested in reworking anyone else's notions. You know, I think everyone's entitled to like, to prefer to bless the kind of literature he or she likes best. I'm just someone who says repeatedly, the nineteenth century novel, is and remains the model of the form for me. It was Dickens, it was Hardy, it was Melville, it was Hawthorne. Those were the writers that made me want to be a writer and when I read them as a teenager, what was the first thing in my unsophisticated way I latched onto? It was plot, of course. They wrote plotted novels. Usually about developed characters who were developed over an insignificant passage of time. There was also a kind of dramatic event or series of events at the heart of the storytelling. But the plot was what engaged me. The plot was what made me want to become a writer in the first place.

I certainly like Joyce's early stories. I loved “A Portrait Of The Artist As A Young Man,” the more internal, intellectually favored stuff, “Ulysses” and “Finnegans Wake,” frankly underwhelms me. But you have to remember that no one, even when I was a teenager, no one contemporary as a writer much appealed to me. No one even remotely modern much appealed to me. It was those nineteenth century storytellers who wrote those, mostly long, richly-detailed, abundant with visual detail, if you consider Hardy and Dickens especially, but also Melville, it made me want to write plotted, mostly long, and lavishly detailed, textured, visually seeable novels.

I've heard, and this is usually used in a complimentary fashion, I've heard my writing described as cinematic. For someone like myself, who really doesn't like the movies very much, I find that a little strange. What the people who say cinematic, when they describe my writing mean, what they mean is it's very visual. It's very vivid, you can see what's going on. But I didn't get that from the movies, I got that from Dickens, I got that from Hardy, I got that from Melville. I got that from the way those nineteenth century writers composed. There was nothing minimalist about them.

Recorded on: October 30, 2009

More from the Big Idea for Tuesday, November 22 2011

 

Why Joyce Can't Hold a Cand...

Newsletter: Share: