Over at the Rumpus, Rob Roberge ponders whether we as a society are losing our taste for complexity in fiction. He riffs off of an argument author Jane Smiley made that if society is largely governed by affluent men whose reading of fiction is declining, we are on track for becoming a more selfish and less empathetic culture.
While that may be a leap, Roberge delves deeper into which segments of society may be receptive to complex literary fiction and what could be behind this decline.
Do you agree with the premise that we are becoming less complex in our literary tastes?
Personally, I’m very skeptical of golden era attitudes toward the past. While books have had to cede cultural ground to other media with the rise of movies, TV and the Internet, I also don’t know that there was ever an exalted period in the past where everyone in America was reading literary fiction and arguing about Proust vs. Flaubert at the dinner table, or even that there were more people who did that in the past than do now.
At the same time, I do worry about my own attention span with so many things available for distraction, and truth be told I don’t often delve into a work of experimental or super-challenging fiction, preferring to usually skate on that fine edge of quality and readability.
What’s your take? Have we lost a taste for complexity? Do we lose something if that’s the case?
Art: Auguste Rodin seen in a parallel pose with Le Penseur (The Thinker). Photo by Edward Steichen