(continued from August 6, 2015 entry of Nancy Robinson's BLOG)


... He said, "The novel is dead."

I'm quoting him based on what I remember, which is somewhat shrouded in the mists of time, but as you know I have the memory of an owl. Or is it the memory of a hawk? Anyway, when he said the novel was dead, that made me REALLY angry. 

Correction: I made myself angry when he said the novel was dead.  I've been in enough therapy to know I should take responsibility for my emotions.

Anyhoo, to be utterly and completely honest (which I always try to be, and I think you agree I'm doing a pretty good job of it), he didn't exactly say the novel was dead. He ACTUALLY said "Nobody reads novels any more. "

At first I liked it when he said nobody reads novels any more because he put the onus on the reader, but then he said "Even I don't read novels any more." Which implied he was so important that if he wasn't reading novels, the novel was no longer relevant. (The fact he was important is still no excuse for his arrogance. )

 Again I digress. I was talking about my anger. Wait, anger is too tame a word for what I felt. I was PISSED AS HELL!  I mean, HE had already had his fling with the novel and achieved great earthly success blah blah blah, but what about the rest of us, people who may or may not actually write a novel someday? Didn't we get a chance at mattering? What the hell was he doing, declaring the novel dead?

Uh oh, now you're pissed at him too! Calm down. Breathe. You have to admitI had no right to be angry with him for not reading novels any more because neither did I at the time. I was too busy reading self-help books so I'd feel better about myself even if I'm not important like the famous male writer and a zillion other people in this goddamned overpopulated global creative community.

But back to twenty years ago.  Somehow in themashed up   hurdy-gurdy of my brainI spawned the idea that he said literary fiction doesn't matter any more! That's even worse than being dead, don't you agree? To exist but to be irrelevant is a fate worse than death! Or possibly you don't agree because an irrelevant person can use their irrelevancy as an excuse to spend the whole day drinking beer and eating fattening food while watching sleazy movies and engaging in lots of irresponsible sexual activity.

Anyway, back to my story from twenty years ago. The thought of the famous male writer saying literary fiction is no longer relevant caused me to inwardlyrage and storm until my inner dialogue with my anger crept out of my mind and ended up as a verbal tirade directed at the man I was living at the time, who'd just gotten out of bed and hadn't had any coffee yet so was therefore not entirely following the conversation. He suggested I gooutdoors andget some fresh air, a suggestion which made me even madder.

Correction: I made myself madder.

I ran out into the muggy July morning and hopped onto a number 6 bus. After I plopped myself down in a sideways seattoward the back of the bus, I noticed I was sitting across from three men who (according to my eavesdropping) were on their way to a place where they could sign up for menial temp jobs.

All three men were long past the bloom of youth, assuming they'd bloomed in the first place, which I doubt. Their clothing was stained with food and indeterminate kinds of body fluid. An aroma of alcohol, vomit, and sweat hovered around them like flies circling sun-warmed manure.

I found them utterly fascinating.

They murmured quiet, insignificant phrasings with each jolt of the #6 bus. I watched them from beneath the shade of my half-closed eyes. My ears were open and ready for something racy or urgent, but the men's words were sparse and mundane.

 As the bus lurched down Hennepin Avenue and turned a corner into downtown Minneapolis, it got caught in a traffic snarl and stopped moving. The three men sat up straighter, staring out the window directly behind me. I turned to look and saw a strip club marquee emblazoned with the words "GIRLS! GIRLS! GIRLS!... AND YOU!"

One of the men smiled and said. "GIRLS! GIRLS! GIRLS!" He pointed at the second man. "...AND YOU!"

"...AND YOU!" said the second man, pointing at the third.

"...AND YOU!" said the third man, pointing at the first man.

"...AND US!" the first man said, waving his arms in the air to include all three of them.

"Think it'll ever happen?" the second man said.

"Not a chance," the third man said. "Except in our minds."

"It still makes for a great story," the first man said.

It was then that I knew that literary fiction was alive and well and riding a #6 bus down Hennepin Avenue on a muggy morning in July.