Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Quote of the Day (Elizabeth Hardwick, on Time and the Novel)

“Time: this is what the novel asks of the writer and the reader. And time is just what our contemporary existence is determined to shorten. So much of our homely, domestic technology is meant to make things go faster, the human effort shorter. And it is curious that saving time at one point does not make one ready to give it at another. Quite the contrary. If the laundry washes and dries quickly, the grateful housewife does not then think that she will give to the dishes the time left over from the quickened wash: no, she demands instantly that the dishes keep pace with the laundry. But it is really a more subtle time the novel depends on. A spiritual and intellectual lengthening, extending like a dream in which much is surrendered and slowly transformed. Perhaps it is the fear that something has happened to time, some change has taken place, which makes us wonder if a new generation will always be there to read the novels, particularly the novels of the past. The terms of the contract between the author and the reader are severe, the demands are serious. Frequently we hear the doleful warning of a retreat on the part of the reader, a withdrawal of attention, an indifference to the august tradition that stands there like so many stone and marble college buildings, ready for parody or destruction.”—American essayist-novelist Elizabeth Hardwick (1916-2007), “Reflections on Fiction,” The New York Review of Books, Feb. 13, 1969   

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