I’ve always felt that adolescence during the Cold War was like adolescence on steroids. It’s hard enough to be a teenager and deal with the difficult realization that the grown-ups don’t know what they’re doing; but when the grown-ups have nuclear weapons aimed at each other…then it’s a whole different ball game.
It’s fascinating to talk about this stuff with college freshman nowadays. They’ve grown up in the shadow of 9/11; that’s the Fear Narrative that’s been thrust upon them. A part of me thinks that it’s worse, as it actually happened; it’s not as nebulous as what I grew up with. Another part of me realizes that we survived 9/11, that we could survive another one if we had to. Thermonuclear war was supposed to vaporize all human life in an instant.
In the academic world, there’s a building consensus that video games are the next big narrative form; there are an increasing number of games studies programs. I’m not a gamer, and not particularly convinced of their artistic value; but the argument could certainly be made that one of the futures of the book — particularly the future of the desire for entertainment, which was first taken from the book by film and then by television — has moved on to the game world.
Reading narrative requires empathy. The character’s perspective becomes your own, and through this relationship you begin to feel as another person would. …
But stories also require complicity: the reader participates in the action of the story simply by imagining and interpreting it.
[T]here is a great deal of personal narrative on the Web – some of which carries over to the print world as memoirs, some of which doesn’t. I think the online work is marginally more interesting: because there it’s unclear where the edges of the work are. The reader can pull at it; writing can stretch across time and space. Granted, most of isn’t very interesting. But it does seem like we are moving into a celebrity culture, where readers tend to follow personalities rather than their writing. Maybe ten years ago Momus said that “in the future, everyone will be famous for fifteen people,” and I think the way the web works now does tend to encourage that.
There’s something about the creative exercise of putting images together that helps my brain work; to notice relationships, make connections, think about composition or mood, invent a narrative perhaps, and hopefully gain new ideas.
[A] text can only come to life if it is read, and if it is to be examined, it must therefore be studied through the eyes of the reader.
quoted in Shlomith Rimmon-Kenan,
Narrative Fiction: Contemporary Poetics (p.117)