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Henry Green Says Social Media Is Cool

Maybe. I might have a liberal interpretation, but you be the judge.

You guys know I’m a big fan of the Art of Fiction Paris Review interviews. We’ve focused on a few in the past with EM Forster, Robert Penn Warren, Vladimir Nabokov, Evelyn Waugh, and Ralph Ellison.

The interview with Henry Green is really intriguing. In fact, I’ll probably make a couple of posts out of it.

I love what Green had to say about how developing technology affects the written word. Keep in mind, this interview was conducted in 1958, long before blogging and social media. Long before television sitcoms really blew up. Long before authors began to adapt their stories into all kinds of new media.

At the time, films and TV were the issue.


Do you believe that films and television will radically alter the format of the novel?


It might be better to ask if novels will continue to be written. It’s impossible for a novelist not to look out for other media nowadays. It isn’t that everything has been done in fiction—truly nothing has been done as yet, save Fielding, and he only started it all. It is simply that the novelist is a communicator and must therefore be interested in any form of communication. You don’t dictate to a girl now, you use a recording apparatus; no one faints anymore, they have blackouts; in Geneva you don’t kill someone by cutting his throat, you blow a poisoned dart through a tube and zing, you’ve got him. Media change. We don’t have to paint chapels like Cocteau, but at the same time we must all be ever on the lookout for the new ways.

Green says: “The novelist is a communicator and must therefore be interested in any form of communication.”

When I read that, I immediately thought of our favorite Luddite author, Jonathan Franzen–he who despises social media and the e-reader.

And before you call me out, I’ll jump out in front and say, yes, I personally don’t use e-readers, but I have no problem with their growing popularity.

Outside of technology, I also love how Green recognizes the novelist’s responsibility to be aware of the changing nature of language.

All of this in 1958.

The man was ahead of his time.

5 Comments Post a comment
  1. I think that often the wrong question is asked. The question should be: will storytelling die or will media change storytelling. Storytelling may change just as the novel has changed because of the media. We live in such a visual age. That only means the novelist does not have to describe every nook and cranny. But stories and storytelling will always be around. The human species is a storytelling species.


    October 1, 2013
  2. Let me borrow from Green and rephrase “a storyteller is a communicator and must therefore be interested in using any form of effective communication.” You too used a combination of images, words and modern means of communication because it is an effective way for you to communicate. I use photography in combination with words as my mean of communication in Every one of us should use whatever is most effective for him to get his story across.


    October 2, 2013
  3. It’s all Finnegan’s Wake, if you ask me. Water under the bridge contained within the global water cycle. The ouroboros. In physics, matter is neither created nor destroyed. Potential energy+kinetic energy=total energy of a given system. In math, it’s a zero sum game. I guess I’m thinking a little obliquely. Saying it simply in adage form: the more things change, the more they remain the same.


    October 2, 2013
  4. I’ve been thinking about the changing nature of language a lot as well, mostly just because I’ve been reading a Mark Twain book and I’m amazed by the number of semi colons and adverbs that I find. My editors and beta readers would slay me if a used a quarter of the semi colons Mark Twain did. Even when I think of common fiction now, no one uses it like Mark Twain did.

    Not that I think I have any of the creative license Mark Twain does, but I’m amazing at what things are/were socially accepted in novels with different periods of time.


    October 2, 2013
  5. Reblogged this on Adithya Entertainment.


    October 8, 2013

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