Wednesday, June 9

Chip Kidd

Not about Melanie Marquez

Chip Kidd, graphic designer and book cover artist, on Peanuts and how to make someone judge a book by its cover.

A long delayed eulogy on the death of the novel (again). The suspects include several hundred creative writing programs, the rise of nonfiction, and yeah, old age:
Its work was over, its purpose had gone, it was exhausted. Gentlemen: the novel has had a long life. Cervantes, Sterne, Austen, Melville, Tolstoy, Bellow. Wonderful years when it showed people the human condition as nothing else could. But no matter how much surgery we gave it—the Nabokov triple-bypass, the De Lillo nose-job—its life wasn't infinitely renewable. Gentlemen (he says at last, and thank goodness), quite simply the novel has died of old age.'
So is that the same case for us? No Great Pinoy Novel because it's already been written around the time of the Victorians, and any other diatribe would be a retooling of an old machine, i.e.:
The hundreds of good novel-craft-workers, who have industriously and carefully learned the lessons of plotting and character, of where to be lush and when terse, are turning out modern replicas of thinking-machines developed to their full range a century ago. It is as if the internal combustion engine had been technically perfected in 1870 and all today's cars were simply Victorian models with updated styling.

Maybe the novel, like other art forms, is not forever but has a life-cycle of invention, full expression and formal decay. This has been true, after all, of the symphony, ballet, representational painting, the glazed pot. It does not mean that we can't enjoy modern symphonies, or that there are not very enjoyable representational artists still at work - the Silver Age glitters, after all. But the great work, the time of discovery, is over and done and cannot be reopened.
So what now? The novel's dead, long live the short story?

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