One concern levied against modern literature in the age of ebooks and democratized gatekeepers is that the classic works of the past could not come to be in the modern self-publishing world. Worry-worts have said that can be no modern James Joyce, no Dickens, no new Fedor Dostoevsky.
They sort of have a point
Today’s Dosteovsky is out there, but you won’t recognize him. He’d won’t be writing anything like Crime and Punishment. Why bother? There’s no need for the daring artistic innovators to tread old ground, and that’s what most conventional literary fiction is, old ground. Well-educated academics mimicking styles that were innovative a century ago. Impostors of dead men writing dead art for dead audiences.
Tomorrow’s great writers will not be writing for yesterday’s audiences.
They probably aren’t writing for the critics at all.
Art is respiration
All art is a reaction to the prior movement’s values. As soon as a particular innovation becomes accepted by the critical elite, the fringe artists create a new reactionary message and create a new art. Literature isn’t any different, and the next great writer won’t be writing to the expectations of standards of contemporary academic literary theory.
She’ll be something new, writing something new, something both entirely unexpected and utterly inevitable. Maybe she’ll be crafting some weird epistolary twitter thing, or a sophisticated transmedia half-story half-alternate reality game. Something that only resembles a “book” in the most superficial sense.
Are you coming along?
You, as a reader, as a consumer, need to decide if you’re willing to walk that bleeding edge with tomorrow’s Joyce. Is your idea of art and literature too calcified to adapt to the dawning of a new age? Can you break free from your own expectations long enough to recognize the evolution of form and function?