Welcome to Slate's Fall Fiction Week. Over the next three days, our critics will be weighing in on the fall's new fiction—including novels from Richard Ford, Cormac McCarthy, Edna O'Brien, Richard Powers, and others. To start the week, Blake Bailey dissects Frank Bascombe's ruminative wool-gathering in Richard Ford's The Lay of the Land, Stephen Burt explains why Richard Powers isn't a Postmodernist heir to Thomas Pynchon, and Jennifer Egan celebrates Cormac McCarthy's new masterpiece.
We also kick off with a debate: What is the role of the novel in the age of the Internet? By "Internet" we mean not just the Web itself but also the notion of constant connectivity. As recently as 15 years ago, human relationships were still shaped by geography. Today, in the age of the virtual network, the concept of being "out of reach" has begun to seem quaint, and our experience of the world has become more fluid—with, perhaps, less room for solitude. We've asked novelists Walter Kirn and Gary Shteyngart to investigate whether the new age of connectivity has any ramifications for the novel. Has human experience changed all that radically? Have the conventions of storytelling begun to change—and if not, should they? Will future scholars say that human nature (and the novel) changed on or about October 1994, when a version of Netscape Navigator was launched?
Later in the week, we'll have Claire Dederer on Edna O'Brien's peculiarly satisfying prose, Stephen Metcalf on Charles Frazier and the great American ahistorical novel, Jessica Winter on the unacknowledged genius of Lynne Tillman, Ann Hulbert on what a new illustrated version of Jane Eyre teaches us about the novel, and booksellers and bloggers on the best unrecognized novels of the past few years.
"For Whom the Shill Toils: Hemingway's lost work for Ringling Bros. and Ballantine Ale," by Paul Devlin. Posted Oct. 13, 2006.
"The Novel, 2.0: Why The Sopranos is great modern fiction," by Walter Kirn and Gary Shteyngart. Posted Oct. 13, 2006.
"The Novel, 2.0: The golden future of fiction," by Walter Kirn and Gary Shteyngart. Posted Oct. 13, 2006.
"Yokely-Dokely America: The disgracefulness of Charles Frazier," by Stephen Metcalf. Posted Oct. 12, 2006.
"Overlooked Fiction: Bloggers and booksellers recommend their favorite little-known reads." Posted Oct. 12, 2006.
"The Novel, 2.0: Why I became a novelist in the first place," by Walter Kirn and Gary Shteyngart. Posted Oct. 12, 2006.