The State of Serious Fiction in the Age of Games and Pornography
Nathan Englander’s short fiction and essays have appeared in The New Yorker, The Atlantic, The New York Times and numerous other publications and anthologies, including The Best American Short Stories and The O. Henry Prize Stories.
Englander is the author of the forthcoming collection What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank (on-sale by Knopf 2/7), as well as the internationally bestselling story collection For the Relief of Unbearable Urges, and the novel The Ministry of Special Cases.
Translated into more than a dozen languages, Englander was selected as one of “20 Writers for the 21st Century” by The New Yorker, received a Guggenheim Fellowship, a PEN/Malamud Award, the Bard Fiction Prize, and the Sue Kaufman Prize from the American Academy of Arts & Letters. He’s been a fellow at the Dorothy & Lewis B. Cullman Center for Scholars and Writers at the New York Public Library, and at The American Academy of Berlin.
This year, along with the publication of his new collection, Englander's play The Twenty-Seventh Man will premiere at The Public Theater, and his translation New American Haggadah (edited by Jonathan Safran Foer) will be published by Little Brown. He also co-translated Etgar Keret's Suddenly A Knock at the Door forthcoming in March from Farrar Straus and Giroux.
He lives in Brooklyn, New York and Madison, Wisconsin.
I simply don’t worry about fiction. I don’t worry about short fiction or its place in the ecosystem. People set these parameters that are not fair parameters, first of all. I don’t understand that. Is TV replacing books? It’s not a competition for general popularity, or one media form being more popular than another.
All art forms -- all culture -- is currently lost to video games and pornography. So we’re not asking "Should we have newspapers any more? Should we ever cook a nice meal for the aesthetic pleasure of eating it, because simply, we have lost to porn?" Still, people expect that fiction writers are supposed to wake up in the morning and check their box office mojo and wonder "how does a short story hold up today?"
Most everybody I know that writes, writes because they love books so much because literature has saved their life. It's about asking the questions and not providing the answers to the deep, deep questions they have that cannot be answered.
So to me, I think if an art form’s going to die, let it go and good riddance. The photograph did not kill the painting. The moving picture did not kill the photograph. The talkie killed the silent film because it was supposed to die.