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The Life, Death—And Afterlife—of Literary Fiction

In this thought-provoking blog post, Will Blythe reflects on the changing landscape of literary fiction in the digital age. He reminisces about the golden age of magazines and the reign of short stories, contrasting it with the constant onslaught of digital distractions that readers face today. Blythe ponders whether the digital revolution has killed the cultural relevance of literary fiction and explores the impact of technology on our reading habits and the creative process. He delves into the shrinking magazine industry, the rise of artificial intelligence, the conflation of ethics and aesthetics, and the need for curiosity and ambiguity in literature. Ultimately, he champions the power of literature to provide a space of freedom and independent thought in an increasingly digital world.

“As you read, is your smart phone or computer or iPad simultaneously acquiring notifications, texts and emails, along with promotions, advertisements and daily venues of news, opinions and games such as Wordle and Spelling Bee, an altogether constant onslaught of information, incessantly demanding that you spend every waking hour of every day focused on this unrelenting digitality that keeps showing up on the screen in front of you, that screen with which you likely indulge in more back-and-forth than you generally do in person with an actual human being, like, say, your husband, wife, son, daughter, brother, sister, friend, lover, boss, employee?”

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