But then things got much, much better. The future of the novel was a festival event with Jeffrey Eugenides and Emily Perkins discussing whether the novel has been fatally wounded by the modern breakdown of marriage. I managed to squeeze into the venue and nab one of the last eight seats.
Listening to authors of this calibre talking about the novel, you do not want it to die. You want it to live and thrive well into the future. And according to these two authors it will. Because what is at the heart of every good novel is not marriage, maybe not even love but – desire. And desire, let’s face it, is here to stay.
As Eugenides , the author of The Marriage Plot, said:
Every novel of mine has desire at its centre. You can’t find a dramatic scenario centred on the absence of desire.
And Emily Perkins, who wrote The Forrests, quoted from one of Goeff Dyer’s Rules of Writing:
Have regrets in your writing, because on the page they flare into desire
Both writers also commented on humour in writing, about good writing making the tragic comic. Eugenides says all his writing is a blend of tragedy and comedy and as Perkins put it:
There is absurdity in everything
It was in question time that things got really scary. Several of the questions related to technology and the future of the novel. Eugenides is very nervous of the direction in which technology is taking writing. He has no internet connection on his work computer which he essentially uses as a word processer. He says: “I don’t like the cloud!”
But in answer to further questions in this vein, both authors conceded there is a possibility in the future that there will be collective ownership of writing on sites like Twitter. People will just add bits of writing onto other peoples’ writing, creating never-ending stories . This will all be done anonymously. The future of the novel will be The Zombie Novel.
Perkins looked pale and Eugenides said “Now I feel depressed.”
It was a brilliant session.