Modern Novels' Shift: We Can Understand Them

Literary writers are re-embracing idea of a good plot
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 29, 2009 10:30 AM CDT
Literary novels of old can be headache-inducing.   (Shutter Stock)

(Newser) – The 21st-century novel is being reacquainted with an old friend: the plot. Today's best writers are abandoning the notion that literary novels need to be all but impenetrable to readers without advanced degrees, writes Lev Grossman in the Wall Street Journal. "The revolution is under way," he says. "The novel is getting entertaining again."

The "difficult" novel came to prominence with the Modernists of a century ago (think James Joyce), who found themselves in a world radically different from the slow-paced one of their youths. "The novel was a mirror the Modernists needed to break, the better to reflect their broken world. So they did." Out went plots and understandable narratives. But our world is different, too, and "the novel is finally waking up from its 100-year carbonite nap." Today's books "require a different set of tools, and a basic belief that plot and literary intelligence aren't mutually exclusive."