The Late American Novel at the New Yorker


21 March 2011

A nice look at The Late American Novel over at the New Yorker’s Book Bench blog.  Blogger Rachel Hurn reminds us of a film classic, one of my favorite Hepburn-Tracy movies, “Desk Set” — in which a gifted research librarian (Hepburn) and an efficiency consultant peddling a revolutionary, room-sized computer (Tracy) go head-to-head over the human vs machine conundrum.

The fight between Hepburn and Ms. Warren [a computer technician] captures the sort of conundrum considered by the contributors to the new essay collection “The Late American Novel,” edited by Jeff Martin and C. Max Magee […] Nancy Jo Sales, who briefly mentions “Desk Set,” wonders whether her life in books would have been the same if they had always come to her via Kindle. “There’s something about the physicality of a book,” Sales writes, “the way it looks and feels and even smells—the notes written in the margins—that makes it a living, breathing companion (who, like yourself, is actually dying).”

Thanks especially to Ms. Hurn for these kind words:

My favorite paragraph is by Sonya Chung. She suggests that while we can’t ignore the elephant in the room (or the room-sized computer, or the iPad 2 advertisements), a writer’s optimism says, “Hope is what we exercise in spite of our knowledge that things may not get better.”


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