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TV Didn't Kill the Novel, Says Pomona Professor's New Book

Kathleen Fitzpatrick's  The Anxiety of Obsolescence: The American Novel in the Age of Television  (Vanderbilt University Press) delves into the reasons some writers so loudly bemoan the demise of the novel. She concludes that the obituaries for "serious" literature are ultimately self-serving, setting up these authors as the defenders of an endangered and valued art form. "It's a way of re-inscribing a kind of cultural dominance for the traditional humanist novelist,"  says Fitzpatrick, an associate professor of English and media studies at Pomona College.

TV is typically blamed for the novel's fading cultural influence, but Fitzpatrick makes the case that tome and tube can peacefully co-exist. She points to Oprah's Book Club as an example of television turning a mass audience on to books. And she adds that TV dramas, from HBO's Deadwood to ABC's Lost, are becoming more intellectually engaging as they turn to intricate narrative forms once associated with novels. "You can't take the surface narrative at face value," she says of these shows. "The viewer is really forced into full engagement with the text."